Orangeville Mayoralty: It’s ‘A People Person’s Job’: Adams

October 15, 2014   ·   0 Comments

As a public service, what with the municipal elections coming up, we thought we would learn what it takes to be Mayor of Orangeville; what this “part time” job is. To thoroughly understand what is involved, we sat down with Mayor Rob Adams who explained fully what the job entails.

It would be hard to say which of the many talents a person needs to perform the role is the most important but, certainly, a real grasp of how to handle finances must rank among the top. When Mayor Adams was first elected for a three-year term, he began by thinking of reserves as a municipal savings account, money set aside for unexpected large expenditures or emergencies. By the end of that term, he had managed the finances by paying off the town’s debts and establishing a reserve of $10 million.

When he lost the next two elections to Drew Brown, which actually gave him time with his family of very young children, the new administration of the municipality depleted the reserves and incurred a new debt load of $25 million.

Mayor Adams ran again on a platform of fiscal responsibility, won and has seen the debt reduced to about $15 million and begun to re-build the reserves.

He explained what had happened to the town’s finances: “An arena was built with no fund-raising and there were roads built with no provincial or federal funding assistance.”

The arena and the roads were both important, the Mayor confirmed, but the way they were paid for should have been managed better.

It is all very well to be fiscally responsible but it is important to preserve the community while trying to rebuild the finances. Mayor Adams was concerned about keeping the values of a small town.

With this in mind, he organized building BMX Bike Park and sports pad at Brown’s Farm and a splash pad at Fendley Park. The town partnered with service clubs to create new services without using taxpayers’ money.

Orangeville’s 150th birthday of Orangeville was a really good way to bring the community together with a series of spectacles that included celebrities and local talent, a historical play produced by Theatre Orangeville written especially for the “bash,” a video played on the side of a building –”Many people contributed to that,” the mayor added.

The organizers even brought Dubs – two producers who make electronic music.

“There was something for everyone,” he said and clearly, that was what was important about it all.

“That connecting through the community is what makes people feel this town is home.”

He says it was important to understand how the arts connect the community to create such a wonderful time for the whole community without spending tax payers’ money. The events for the 150th anniversary were largely supported by corporations within the community.

Part of the mayor’s job is to cope with a winter like the last one, which caused a state of emergency, to help make things safe. Once again, the community spirit was at work.

“I saw neighbours helping neighbours,” said the Mayor. “That’s indelibly sketched on my mind – like the 150 celebrations – that’s what makes Orangeville such a great place.

“We have unlimited potential,” he remarked.

In order to keep the momentum, there are many new initiatives coming and he sees it as part of the job to maintain the flow, to hold a vision, not of size but of quality. With the combination of people coming to retire from the cities and young families bringing their children to a safe town that is also beautiful, more rural than urban, where the community is welcoming, both arts and sports are robust and the place feels like home even in the early days, it is clear that a vision of the town must cater to a complete spectrum of needs.

Hence, an “age-friendly plan,” an enhanced cultural plan, new parks and recreation initiatives are under way – all, he says, with an eye to containing costs.

Around Orangeville, 180 new businesses have come in over the last four years. There have been 279 new jobs, which means that local unemployment stands at 2.1% – far below the provincial average.

But wait, we have not begun to touch on the weight of communications that are an integral part of the Mayor’s job, the very many emails and some Facebook exchanges. The mayor’s job is a constant ebb and flow of meetings: with Council, committees and constituents: “Sometimes, I go to people’s homes.” There can be multiple meetings in one evening.

“As Mayor, I am ex-officio member on every town-related committee. If one of my councillors has a problem, I attend the meeting,” he said. “The job is a lot about problem-solving.”

And every business opening requires that the mayor attend to give the moment the attention it deserves with photos in the papers and, possibly, as keepsakes on the walls.

“You’re an ambassador for the community,” he pointed out. “People don’t understand – it’s not my picture in the paper, it’s that the event doesn’t get the attention it should otherwise.”

It is a people person’s job. You have to like people; the Mayor was definite about that. Although the job includes responsibility for nearly everything, it is necessary to let the other councillors take ownership of their projects and be leaders, with the support of the Mayor.

Here are some pointers that outline the overall work involved in the Mayor’s job:

He or she is: the Ambassador Face of the community; the problem solver; handling the actual work to done; counting on not less than 45 hours a week for this “part time” job; have the “vision to design strategic forward planning – wherever the municipality is going;” connect with other mayors in the region and the province.

“You constantly, every second, have to live with the responsibility of the 30,000 people who live here: a lady out on the streets with her kids and no place to go; a disabled person whose money has run out – those responsibilities are on your shoulders,” he commented.

Of course, the job is hard on the family where occasions are missed and dinners are cancelled. A mayor’s spouse has to be on side, understanding that the job is important in the influence it has not just for the municipality’s present moment but also for the future; not just in theory but on the actual impact the mayor makes in the lives of the residents, young and old, rich or poor.

And by the bye, sometimes it means you even have to kiss a cod.

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