On Jan. 12, Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens took the oath of office - the first time in 18 years the city swore in a mayor not named Bill Hargis.
Giuliani Stephens sat down with the Woodbury Bulletin last week to go over her new position with the city and what the future might bring.
Woodbury Bulletin: You take the reins after longtime Mayor Bill Hargis. Do you feel like those are big shoes to fill?
Mary Giuliani Stevens: The way I look at it was Bill had 18 years. So I don't have the 18 years there. So I kind of take it a day at a time. Bill was just awesome - not only in his service to the community but in his willingness to mentor me and really had an aggressive transition plan in November and December, which really made me feel really prepared to step in.
WB: What kind of adjustments have you had to make, going from being a council member to mayor?
MGS: Mostly time management for me. I was involved in things and one of the things I recognized early on was this position had grown into more than just a limited time position to be mayor. Even Bill would say he put a significant number of hours into the position. It's just readjusting my schedule to make it work.
WB: How steep has the learning curve been? Have there been any surprises you didn't see coming?
MGS: No surprises. I think that's one of the huge pluses about the city and the leadership, including other council people and volunteers and advisory groups and the city itself. Everything is well planned and well thought out. So I feel real prepared.
There's a learning curve - there's always a lot to learn. I think that's what excites me about the job and why I like it: you just get to learn a lot of things about a lot of topics. And I enjoy that process.
WB: What leadership style do you take to the mayor's seat?
MGS: I don't intend to micromanage staff. They do a great job - they're good at what they do. I think the key is recognizing that this is a process that involves a lot of people. I'm one vote on the council. I really value them and respect the expertise and the perspectives that the other council members bring as well as all that additional information we're getting from commissioners and our advisory boards. So I enjoy being part of the process of working with that group.
So when you listen and work together to try to come up with common solutions, that's the best approach. Clearly we're not going to all agree all the time, but I think that the ultimate goal is to have a win-win and to make decisions that really are in the best interest of Woodbury as a community as a whole.
WB: What are some major issues you see the city tackling this year?
Obviously economic development is key - bringing good-paying jobs to Woodbury. We've worked on updating our economic development plan intentionally because we saw that when the economy took a dive we needed to reevaluate that. So that was a long-term process and we involved the businesses and developers and we had a panel to discuss that. And out of that came our current economic development policy.
We recognize that we need to be more proactive in attracting businesses. So that's just more marketing and relationships. And we really value the businesses we have. So one of our goals is to retain those businesses that we have here. And then help fill some of that vacant space in those areas.
The second area is your city and you're always looking forward and planning for your growth. Our next phase, we call it Phase 2, for our development, which is south of Bailey Road ... is the next phase. It will be mostly residential with an urban village.
So again, it's a process. And we've been engaged in that process.
Right now the big issue is the sanitary sewer line that needs to run in there, and it's a large piece and it's long. So the timing - when we put it in, where it goes, how you pay for it, and the other infrastructure that's going to be needed to support it -we're working on those issues as we're deciding on how to move forward in terms of phasing and timing and paying for that next phase of development.
Early on we're starting discussions on Bielenberg. The Bielenberg Sports Center, the bubble itself is at the end of its useful life. It's been in our capital improvement plan for some time. But we're just starting that process.
MGS: As mayor, what direction would you like to take the city?
I think the direction has been set before me and we have a vision through our comprehensive plan and the council itself has the critical success factors that they've identified. And so it's really carrying out that vision and dealing with these issues ... in terms of doing our economic development and along with that, a big component is transportation, which is very important. And just planning our growth. I expect that we'll continue to be an attractive and vibrant community moving forward - both for businesses and for individuals.