What type of management style would you bring as the new Mayor of Ashland and how would you specifically work with City Council?
As I see it there are three distinct parts to the Mayor’s job, although at any point in time they may overlap: The first is executive officer of the municipal corporation. The second is as spokesperson, ambassador, representative of the community. And the third is as a facilitator of the Council and its decision-making process.
As executive officer my responsibilities would included hiring and firing (with Council confirmation) the top management team of the City (City Administrator, City Attorney, and Department Heads). I also would be responsible for ensuring that the parameters within which they work are well defined and that an appropriate accountability system is place. This foundation is what lets the Mayor and City Administrator work together effectively because it divides up their responsibilities in a clear way.
As ambassador/spokesperson/etc. for the City I would build cooperation with the leaders of the other municipalities in the Rogue Valley, lobby the State government on behalf of Ashland, and promote Ashland’s interests to a variety of outside entities and individuals, including foundations and other bodies that were interested in investing in what Ashland is doing (see below). Another part of this role is expressing the community’s story to itself: What are our concerns? Where are we going? What do we stand for?
As for working with the Council, I have some very specific ideas. For decades I worked professionally with groups of people, facilitating their meetings and the decision-making processes of which the meetings were a part. As I see it, you can’t have a successful meeting without good preparation and that preparation starts with the information that is supplied to the Council before their meetings. There is a natural tendency to overwhelm the Council with information, which wears them out and undermines their confidence in their ability to deal with important issues. So managing the information flow: how much, how far in advance, how the issues are formulated – is critical. In fact, I believe the Council should engage in informal conversations with the public before important decisions get formalized and brought into the official process.
And then I would work individually with each Councilor, to help him/her make sense of a given subject and to allow me to be prepared for how the actual meeting might evolve. Then in the meeting itself, I would make sure that all positions are heard and respected because this makes it possible for the group to find creative solutions. Beyond that it’s a question of years of experience, which I’ve had, and of really liking working with groups, which I do.