Letter: Colloboration missing from city government

From: Sherry Stark


I was fortunate enough to spend 10 years as head of community development under the leadership of Mayor Bob Stewart. Those were wonderful and productive years for Columbus. Stewart drew on a wide cross-section of community folks to help develop and put in place important projects like the Mill Race Park renovation, Project Self-Sufficiency, Front Door (State Road 46 entry), Streetscape and outstanding recruitment of new international companies.

One of the secrets to his success was his close working relationship with members of the City Council. In fact, he refused to conduct a meeting if Ab Schumaker, a Democrat on the council, wasn’t present. He wanted to be sure all voices were heard and considered so a workable consensus could be reached.

Another secret to his success was his strong support and encouragement of his department heads and the many volunteers involved in community projects. I might add that the other department heads were terrific and highly qualified professionals with tremendous loyalty to the administration. Stewart often said, “Surround yourself with people smarter than you are, and you’ll look good.” We all know that he is a very smart man, but his words of praise made us proud to be working with and for him and our community. We worked incredibly hard, but we had great fun, too.

I have also had the opportunity to be involved in a number of community projects during Fred Armstrong’s 16 years as mayor. The change in mayors (and political parties) resulted in some shuffling of leadership positions and even styles of getting things done, but good work continued. And once again, all voices were heard and engaged.

Under the current administration there has been a marked change in leadership style and in how or even whether things get done. The collaborative spirit is missing. The wonderful “Columbus way” is off track. This dismays and concerns me for our community.

We need to go back to the collaborative and collegial way of doing things. I hope those who share my concern will join me in supporting Jim Lienhoop for mayor in the May 5 Republican primary.