California's newest mayor reacted to his election win last week, bringing to the table more new ideas he hopes to see implemented during his first term in office.
Rich Green was sworn into office Monday night, officially beginning his time as California's mayor. He'd already gotten to work before then, though; Green got a head start last week, spending some time in City Hall and starting to get the ball rolling, as well as attending city council meetings throughout his campaign to see first hand how they run.
That early work has been helped by the long history of experience offered by outgoing mayor Norris Gerhart, Green said.
"I don't have 20 years of experience, so Norris has been really good about saying he'd help me any way he can," Green said.
Green said he was pleased to see a high turnout in last week's election, something he'd stressed the importance of prior to last Tuesday. He said it was the highest turnout he'd seen in a California mayoral election in quite some time. Green said, in addition, he was glad to have had many conversations with voters throughout the campaigning process, during which they were able to share their ideas with him.
Moving forward, Green stressed California's future growth as a driving factor, something he previously mentioned is "inevitable" prior to the election. The community is growing and will continue to grow, he said, and the city's leadership should take steps to be prepared for it. Some of the city's current challenges — such as the city's steadily increasing waste water intake compared to its dated capacity, a recent topic of city council meetings — are indicative of such growth, Green said.
Citizens put their trust in city government to provide a return for them, Green said: keeping the city running as best you can. He said he looks at it much in the same way as he did when working in his previous career, where he worked with a board of shareholders.
"You have to be a good steward of their money either way," Green said. "That's something that I will do. I'll be a good steward, that's what I intend to do. But you have to keep the shareholders — or in this case, the citizens — informed."
Keeping citizens informed is on his mind, Green said, regarding some of the city's current challenges. Green said he aims for as much transparency as he is able to provide regarding the circumstances at the California Police Department. He said the work of consultant Gary Kempker has been a great start to helping the department to improve, but he said the city can't make further changes and improvements without keeping citizens informed.
One element at play in that regard is the findings of special counsel Amanda Grellner, any details of which have yet to be publicly released due to ongoing litigation between the city of California and the former officers that alleged wrongdoing in the department.
"I think it's important, so that people have confidence, that those things are discussed," Green said. "I fully intend to make sure that the city of California, the people of California, know what the findings are."
New ideas are also on Green's mind, one of which is setting up meetings with the mayors of surrounding Mid-Missouri communities to talk about challenges and their mutual approaches to them from one community to another.
Talking with the leaders of similarly-sized communities about challenges like housing shortages and discussing innovative solutions to such problems would be a benefit, Green said.
"We're all in the same boat," Green said. "(Mid-Missouri) has a lot of the same issues everybody's got some of the same issues with (crime), everybody's got some of the same issues with personnel retention. Let's see how they're doing it."
Green also said he's interested in publishing a "State of the City" address to help inform citizens of the "why" behind any changes the city decides to make. Taking the initiative to inform people could allow them to better understand the city leadership's justifications and get behind them, Green said, and getting some feedback from citizens as a result of such an address could be beneficial to that end.
Green asserted again he intends to make himself available for regular office hours and phone contact with California citizens; he previously said hearing concerns directly from citizens is important to him.
In his first few months in office, Green said he plans to reach an understanding with city supervisors as to their needs and what he can do for them to help them effectively do their jobs. The same goes for the city's aldermen, who Green said he wants to get to know and help in the same respect.
"I'm the new kid on the block, and I need to rely on their expertise and knowledge, and I will," Green said. "I have not met anyone who isn't dedicated to the city; they all are. That's a wonderful thing."
Overall, Green said he hopes citizens will be patient as he learns the role and gets up to speed. He said though he's getting plenty of help from Gerhart and the board of aldermen, it will take some time to settle in and pinpoint what needs to be done in the long-term.
"I'm excited — I'm very excited to do this," Green said. "I'm more excited now than when I decided to run; I've really enjoyed the people that I've talked to."