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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Arthur's challenging first month

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Only a month and one day into his new job as mayor, Tom Arthur has already handled some big challenges.

The sidewalk situation has been at his heels since he first took office. There's been a chemical spill, and a lot of snow.

Don't even get him started on the snow.

"I'm sticking with what I said on my platform," he said, "and one of those things was to plow every street in Brazil when the snow came. To be honest, I was praying that it wouldn't snow."

Arthur said that for their equipment, however, the City Street Department is doing a good job.

"The quality of my job reflects on the job of city services," he said. "When I saw that first snow coming down that Sunday night, I called the street superintendent (Dave Tucker) and asked if he had a plan. He did. I went to work the next morning, and the streets were great... they had a plan, and they acted on it."

The first few months can be hard on any new mayor. Besides the normal duties, a new official "in any office," Arthur said, has to get used to the job itself and the responsibilities that come with it.

Not that he isn't trying. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Arthur said he's spent this first month trying to get his feet wet while working on the city, a true balancing act.

"I'm getting goals established," he said. "And I'm still going into it with the same attitude. Anything is possible... some things may be harder than I once thought, but if we put our minds to it, we can do it."

He named the city's financial situation as an example.

"Our former financial advisor kept saying 'raise sewer rates, raise sewer rates,' and I kept saying, 'I can't raise rates, I can't raise rates.'

"We've got new people now, and they've been looking at the books..." he continued. "Looking into refinancing our bonds, that's an option. Raising rates, that's not."

His biggest challenge thus far has been the city's financial situation.

"We're towards the end of the reassessment, there are budgets hanging over our heads... there's only so much money to go around."

He can say, however, that he hasn't had to put any of his platform plans on the back burner for more pressing issues. When asked, he said that he couldn't think of one thing that he's had to put back until later.

"Being on the council for four years really told me what I could and couldn't do," he said. "I don't think anything I ran on is undoable."

Once again using current events as an example, he named the city streets.

"One of my promises was to repave every street in Brazil. I still think we can do it. It isn't going to be cheap or easy... I tried that avenue, nobody's going to give us new streets... but I've been looking into it, and we can do it."

It took him a minute to respond when asked what his biggest accomplishment in office so far was, but when he answered, he had two responses. His first?

"I cleaned the desk off," he said with a laugh, referring to the formerly-messy table sitting in front of him. "And the town's ability to make the streets passable with all this snow... that's really our biggest accomplishment in 30 days."

A messy desk isn't all the former mayor left behind for Arthur. The task may be daunting, but the unfinished projects of the old administration don't leave Arthur feeling like he's in Kenny Crabb's shadow.

"I tried to send the message that, hey, there's a new guy here, and things aren't going to operate the same way," he said. "Sure, being the new guy is tough. Crabb had some outstanding projects I had to inherit, as did a lot of other people. Fortunately, there are new solutions, because we are looking at the situations with fresh, new eyes."

Looking deeper into things is another thing Arthur is adjusting to.

"Most people, they flush the toilet and that's the last they ever think about it," he said. "I have to look at it a lot closer, make sure the water is up to specifications."

One thing he didn't necessarily plan on was his past job experience helping with his new job so much. A former Northview teacher, Arthur has used many of the skills he taught (and learned) in school from his new chair.

"One thing I was nervous about was motivating employees," he said. "But motivating adults is easier than motivating students.

"I was talking to a group of fifth graders, and I said 'Every day I write and read letters. There's my English. I have to make sure employees get paid, there's my math. Being mayor and looking at budgets... it's amazing how even a high school accounting class can help.'

"The ability to manage people, as a teacher, has really helped me as Mayor."

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