Sunday, November 4, 2012

Longtime public-outreach coordinator explains difference between current and former mayors

Published in the NWA Times today, beautifully written by Julie McQuade:
In Fayetteville, we are about to choose whether to keep the current mayor, Lioneld Jordan, or bring back a past mayor, Dan Coody. I’ve had the unique opportunity to work for both men for approximately 3 years in each administration.
I want to share the lessons I learned through personal experiences in each mayor’s administration. The differences say a lot about the integrity and leadership qualities of each.
During Coody’s administration the lessons I learned were:
  1. My job was more about “spin” than real communication.
  2. An item that passed at City Council without any discussion was a win.
  3. If an issue was mentioned in an editorial, you expected to spend many hours covering the mayor’s position and also expected a city staffer to be the fall guy, if it reflected negatively on the mayor.
  4. Whatever the mayor promised in public, staff had to find a way to make it happen, regardless of legality or ethics.
  5. City staff survived only through keeping their heads down and covering their rears, at all costs.
  6. An expensive plan or program by outside consultants was more important than local community input. Financial feasibility or possibilities of implementation did not matter at all, as long as the mayor got impressive awards.
During Jordan’s administration the lessons I learned were:
  1. My job was communication and facilitating opportunities for everyone to get involved in city decisions.
  2. The mayor wanted many discussions, differing opinions, and wide-spread input on an item before developing a proposal for City Council and he encouraged continued discussion with the City Council.
  3. If an issue was mentioned in an editorial, expect to spend time getting the mayor all the relevant facts on the issue. If an issue was controversial, the mayor would give the City Council the opportunity to discuss and make a decision, rather than try to sweep it under the rug, even though he knew some would be unhappy with the decision the City Council would have to make.
  4. As staff, you could trust that the mayor would never compromise the legality or ethics of the city administration or city staff .
  5. As staff, the mayor was your biggest supporter. He would do his best to get you the recognition and compensation deserved.
  6. Several aspects were weighed before considering a project/ program/plan; financial feasibility, possibility of implementation, the long-term costs, return-on-investment, sustainability and the whole-community impact/involvement.
Admittedly I was a supporter of Coody before 2008. I did not know Jordan, and used to justify my supporting Coody by stating, “As politicians go, he isn’t too bad.” Then I got the privilege of getting to know Jordan and working with him. When I’m asked about my support of Jordan, I now say, “He is a good, honest man who happened to get elected to office.” Jordan isn’t a politician. You can trust what he says, whether you agree with him or not.
All hail and many thanks to Julie, for setting the record straight!

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