I like to believe I am open to new ideas and different ways at looking at things. During the course of my lifetime, I’ve had to revise many beliefs after learning that my opinion was based on bad or incomplete information. At the same time, I also like to believe that I adhere to some fundamental principles that do not change. Integrity, for example, is something I believe never really changes.
I realize my view of myself may be entirely different from how others view me. Anyone who may have heard me say something they didn’t like or felt was inappropriate might have decided I am a close-minded old curmudgeon. I’m sure there have been times when I haven’t met my own standards, and I hope my occasional failings will not deter people from bringing their concerns to me.
City managers may like to give the impression that we are omniscient, but the obvious truth is we aren’t. I can and do research issues, talk with people, look at things that can be looked at, and generally try to seek out the best information available. I can’t know what’s going on inside other people’s heads unless they choose to communicate with me. Many of the complaints I do hear come from anonymous sources or secondhand accounts that offer no opportunity for explanation or confirmation. I’ve seen several recent gripes that the City has no economic development plan that could have been addressed with a conversation, e-mail message, or phone call. We have a formal plan in our Strategic Plan (available on our website), and we are engaged in a wide variety of economic development activities that are easy to document and explain. People may not like our plan or what we are doing to implement it, but that is a much different argument from the accusation that one doesn’t exist.
I take some pride in being an accessible person who likes to talk with others. I think it would be very hard to be an effective introverted city manager. I know that I have never retaliated against any citizen or employee who has come to me with a complaint, although I am sure there have been times when I’ve been unable to resolve the problem or where I’ve disagreed with an allegation. I vividly remember when the manager of a grocery store called me to report that our acting chief of police (not in Albany) was using cocaine and told me that everyone in town knew it. I explained that I didn’t know it and asked if she had any evidence to support a very serious charge. She didn’t and, ironically, called me a few months later to ask that I appoint the acting chief to the permanent position.
I would encourage people who believe something is wrong in the city to come talk with me about the problem. I may disagree or ask for help in getting information to verify the concern, but I will always try to keep an open mind. Griping about a situation without taking the time to do something will seldom resolve a serious concern.