Welcome to the mayor's office, Jim Gray. You are inheriting a Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government short on money and beset by challenges.
Despite the shortcomings that got him voted out of office, Mayor Jim Newberry did a lot to move Lexington forward. He tackled some tough issues so you won't have to.
Many difficult issues remain, though, and the stagnant economy is sure to make many of them worse. Consider last week's news about a $7.2 million shortfall for city employee health care as a sign of things to come.
Still, this is a time of great promise for Lexington. There are encouraging grass-roots efforts all over town. The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games brought Lexington global attention, and the air seems filled with energy and possibility.
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I'm sure you are getting plenty of advice, but I have some, too. Much of it comes from smart people I have talked with who know Lexington and city government quite well. Some of them didn't vote for you, but they still want you to succeed — because they want Lexington to succeed.
First, don't surround yourself with "yes" men and women. Too many politicians make that mistake and become insular, defensive and thin-skinned — and they fail. Be open with the media and the public. Don't hold grudges. Your ability to engage the community is what got you elected. Don't stop.
Many people, especially your friends and allies, will have ideas for you and requests of you. Give them honest, tactful and prompt answers. A non-answer angers most people more than a "no." You can't make everybody happy, and remember that your allies can be harsher critics than your opponents.
Seek out diverse opinions from experts and average folks. Encourage opposing viewpoints and constructive criticism, especially when it comes from people who seem to be motivated by Lexington's best interests rather than their own. Don't fall into the trap of analysis paralysis. Be prepared to deal with unpleasant surprises.
Don't pretend to have all of the answers, or feel like you must. Often, the best thing you can do is offer encouragement to other people's ideas and efforts. Sometimes they need city government's help; other times, they just need city government out of their way.
Look for public-private partnerships and smart ways to leverage city resources. Do more to engage the non-profit and philanthropic communities, not to mention the bright minds at the University of Kentucky, Transylvania University and Bluegrass Community and Technical College. A successful mayor is about coordination and collaboration, not control.
Reach out to Newberry's supporters. Work to build credibility with your critics. It is especially important to have a good working relationship with the Urban County Council, which should have an excellent leader in Linda Gorton, your successor as vice mayor.
You must build better relationships with council members to whom you are not close — and be prepared to distance yourself occasionally from some to whom you are close. Be a good listener. Compromise when you can, but don't be afraid to take unpopular stands when you think you must.
Everyone, including you, knows you are a better big-picture leader than a detail-oriented manager. That's not necessarily bad — and certainly better than the other way around.
Some big-picture leaders make the mistake of getting too bogged down in details, which causes them to neglect the big-picture issues where they could do the most good. Play to your strengths.
Assemble a strong leadership team. You have chosen Richard Maloney, a former council member, as chief administrative officer and Jamie Emmons, your campaign manager, as chief of staff. Both are smart and well-liked. Do they have the management skills and toughness they will need? Time will tell. Be sure they have good mentors.
You must hire (or retain) strong leaders in key jobs, because inertia is the natural tendency of any bureaucracy. Elected officials come and go, and bureaucrats know they are likely to outlast you. Change takes time and persistence. Choose resourceful leaders who will motivate city employees to do their best — and hold them accountable when they don't.
Avoid rewarding supporters with city jobs or contracts, because it will reflect badly on your biggest campaign contributor: you. Nothing will sour a "fresh start" honeymoon quicker than patronage and favoritism.
Good luck. Nobody said this would be easy.