A new city councilmember’s life quickly changes from a private/professional life to a public one, with a sudden awareness of things that normally occur in the background around us. Councilmembers learn about development issues, enacting/enforcing ordinances and managing the town and its employees. City council decisions have lasting effects – and sometimes-unexpected consequences. Members must use effective business and decision practices to ensure financial stability, and they must always have an eye to the future as new ideas are considered.
Beneath the council is a management structure headed by the city manager. He or she manages the town’s directors and support staff. A five-member volunteer Planning Commission provides decisions on proposed new development projects, and 14 additional volunteer advisory committees focus on subsets of the town’s interests.
We are fortunate to have such an amazing range of volunteer expertise to help guide the council and the town. Councilmembers accept liaison assignments to each of the committees and many outside agencies that affect the town, which takes two or three years and allows the member time to learn the job. The difference between a councilmember and the mayor is that the mayor is president of the council. The mayor uses his or her leadership skills to guide progress toward the town’s longer-term objectives while ensuring that the town’s normal operations continue smoothly. The mayor sets the council meeting agendas, presides over meetings and signs all documents approved by the council. The mayor also attends many public events to “carry the flag.”
Initially, it is a bit overwhelming to realize that there are so many more activities performed by the mayor. I am amazed at how the previous two mayors I served under made it appear so easy. Now, after six weeks and one council meeting as mayor, I can report that serving the town really makes for a busy schedule. But it is also very satisfying. In most cases, councilmembers serve with one primary goal: to be good stewards of and for the town and its citizens.
To serve our town while making a positive difference is my singular objective. I am available to any citizen who wants to have a discussion or ask questions. If I do not know the answers initially (ultimately there may or may not be a satisfying answer), I will find out and share what I have learned. If a change is necessary, I will try to make that happen, too.