Mayor Laurie Gere, who was in her new office for the first day Thursday, has a plan for her first year.
With help from her Transition Team, she has a First-Year Outlook document that outlines what she wants to focus on and accomplish in 2014. Plans include reviewing current city processes, proposing three new committees and increasing communication and transparency.
“People are looking at me from the get-go — what is she going to do differently,” Gere said. “They want a way to hear from the mayor as often as possible.”
Gere soundly beat 20-year incumbent Dean Maxwell in the November general election, taking 62 percent of the votes.
She was officially sworn in on Dec. 23 at a private ceremony with about 25 family members and friends. Gere said she opted for the quiet swearing-in to be respectful, since Maxwell was still in office. State law allows a swearing-in to be up to 10 days before officially taking office.
Gere’s salary is $87,283.
There was a ceremonial oath of office at Monday night’s City Council meeting, where new council members John Archibald, Liz Lovelett and Matt Miller were sworn in along with returning council member Erica Pickett.
After Gere was sworn in ceremoniously, the standing-room-only crowd gave a standing ovation.
In her office Thursday, Gere said City Council meetings will follow the same format, though, she’d like to look more closely at the resident participation piece.
“I want people to feel they have time to bring things to the council,” she said.
As she and the council get acquainted, Gere said they’ll find a style that works.
“We’re all going to learn together,” she said.
Gere has run meetings before during her 19 years on the Planning Commission.
“My experience on the Planning Commission will come in handy,” she said.
Gere-a-Deli is fully transitioned to her son Phil and a handful of others who will run the downtown restaurant. They have a combined experience of 45 years.
“I’m a resource,” Gere said. “They were ready and I was ready to do something to serve the community.”
Gere said even if she hadn’t been elected mayor she was planning to transition away from running the restaurant full time.
Gere said the city has a great foundation and has been run prudently. She wants to focus on a vision and continue to make the city run well.
Gere put together a Transition Team to help organize, prioritize and coordinate the transition from candidate to mayor. Team members are Marc Estvold, Wayne Husbey, Kirk Kennedy, Hal Rooks, Susan Rooks, Bob Rose, Dick Storwick, Maggie Thompson and Tom Thompson.
The team heard back from about 50 groups in town during its survey.
Gere also received about 150 responses to the online Listening Tour survey. It is now posted on the city website and input will be accepted through Jan. 15. A report on themes from the survey will be released at the end of the month and posted online, she said.
The Transition Team prepared a First-Year Outlook document to give an overview of Gere’s plans for her first year in office and give a sense of her priorities.
She said the group will disband at the end of January.
“Their only job is to help me transition from being a candidate with a platform to being mayor,” she said. “I don’t want to lose my core values as I move forward.”
The outlook lists her core values: open and transparent, willing to listen, inclusive and participatory, effective and efficient.
Gere spent her first day getting acquainted with staff and learning the city’s computer system. She plans to tour all the city’s buildings.
“I’m going to let the department heads guide me through that,” she said.
She’ll also meet with representatives of the employee unions and will meet with as many city staff members as possible by the end of the month. She plans to review existing hiring practices, employee evaluation processes, training requirements, compensation practices and benefit packages.
Gere will also review existing processes for appointments to city commissions, board and committees to ensure all interested applicants are evaluated and selected through a transparent, fair and straightforward process. She will present proposed changes to the City Council for review and approval.
During her first 90 days, Gere plans to hold operational reviews with department heads and key city staff to listen and learn about the issues and then develop strategies to properly deploy resources to best meet the needs of the city, according to the outlook. This may result in enhancing areas requiring more support or eliminating programs that are ineffective or inconsistent with her values, the outlook says.
Gere will give the state of the city address 90 days after taking office to report on her findings during that time. She will then discuss a vision for the city and a plan to realize that vision.
As discussed in her campaign, Gere has outlined the advisory committee she plans to put together, as well as two other groups.
• Mayor’s Advisory Committee — The committee’s purpose will be to establish and maintain an open dialogue between city government and its citizens. The committee will be comprised of mayor and citizen representatives with the objective of openly discussing issues and setting priorities. These meetings will be open to the public and, if possible, broadcast on Channel 10. It will meet at least quarterly.
• Community Coordination Commission — Gere will reach out to local businesses and government entities to determine potential interest in, and the value of, regular meetings of the city, port, hospital, chamber, school, tribes and major industry leaders to discuss plans, review issues, identify opportunities and coordinate activities. These meetings would be held quarterly and, preferably, shortly after MAC meetings so that citizen concerns raised there can also be addressed. The public is welcome to attend.
• Ad Hoc Committees — To address issues of importance to the city that may develop from time to time, ad hoc committees may be established to investigate and advise on specific issues and problems. Issues considered for ad hoc committees are (1) drug abuse and mental illness and (2) emergency medical services.
Gere will hold informal “Coffee With Laurie” events at least once a month to meet and listen to residents. Locations and times will vary to encourage the broadest outreach. The first coffee is 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22 at the Senior Activity Center.
Gere said Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau did something similar and said it was successful.
The First-Year Outlook includes a section on communications and transparency. It notes the city’s new website, begun by the previous administration, will come online this year.
It also outlines plans Gere has for future communication, including the possibility of including a citywide events calendar on the new city website, potentially creating a searchable electronic document repository for all official documents and perhaps establishing a social media strategy by the end of 2015.
Subject to the council’s approval and input, Gere will propose a mayor-council retreat to engage in team-building, provide for improved communication and build strong working relationships. The retreat will include setting goals, establishing priorities and brainstorming as it relates to operations, policies, procedures, planning and personnel. The retreat should be held within the first quarter of 2014.
Other administrative projects she plans to tackle are the state-mandated 2016 comprehensive plan update, economic development, and evaluating legal expenses and the city’s use of outside legal council.