By Nancy Edwards
In 2015, Fishers will welcome their first mayor. What can we expect from our new mayor?
This question was answered by three mayors serving our neighboring cities: Mayor Jim Brainard from Carmel, Mayor Andy Cook of Westfield, and Mayor John Ditslear from Noblesville, at an event held Nov. 20 at Forum Conference Center titled “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Your First Mayor.” Presented by the Fishers Chamber of Commerce, the session drew many members of the community who gathered to listen to the mayors as they discussed their challenges and opportunities and advice for a new mayor.
Traits of effective leadership
“We’ve worked very hard to develop a sense of identity and community and a sense of economic development,” said Cook of Westfield’s transition from a town to a city. He added that forming neighborhood associations also helps to create a strong sense of community.
“I was very fortunate to also be associated with a very good city council – that has become more important as we go along,” he said, adding that traveling around the state to meet with other mayors and learn what has worked for their communities is also a great opportunity.
Ditslear advised that listening to the community is very effective for great management.
“It’s important for me to see people, hear their concerns, ask questions and be there.”
Brainard added that a new mayor should also set a vision and express their community wants and needs.
Selling your city
The mayors agreed that community growth occurs when advertising a city’s strengths to their target audience outside the area.
Brainard said that if a city can prove that their quality of life is just as good as someplace else, they have a strong argument for bringing jobs to their city.
“Graduates today look around the country to figure out where they want to live and then look for a job,” he said.
Ditslear advised that mayors use social media tools to use sell their city, such as Websites, Twitter, Facebook and local sources such as newspapers, radio and TV.
Learn who your key partners are
“Our town attorney has been very instrumental in the different changes from being a town to becoming a city,” Cook said.
Ditslear added that school systems and the Chamber of Commerce are big key partners, as well as workforce development and citizens’ groups.
Use personal strengths
“Be humble,” Distslear advised. “Be a true servant. Everyone in the community is important. The person who’s living on social security – their problems are just as important as any other business person.”