Guest opinion by Bill Robertson.
Bill Robertson is a native of New Albany and is a retired businessman whose career around the United States gave him a considerable variety and depth of experience. He ran unsuccessfully for New Albany mayor in 2013 and is not a candidate in this year’s municipal elections.
The thought expressed here are his own and we do not necessarily endorse them. However, we think it is all worth saying and is well said.
Wishes for substantive improvements in our community are just pipe dreams if the status quo remains in the leadership of our community. In the past three terms there has been very little progress toward putting this community in the driver’s seat of growth. New Albany has grown economically in spite of itself. This is, in part, due to good citizens who provide labor, investment and tenacity to improve their community, with very little foresight, direction and leadership from those elected to serve.
What we need are good, forward-thinking candidates who genuinely care about our community running for the offices in city government this election year. Citizens want sound, positive, conservative and progressive leadership. The salary of the New Albany Mayor is $84,000 +/- a year plus benefits, making it approximately a $100,000 job. We have communities around us in North Mississippi that are larger in population with a mayor who makes less (refer to the New Albany Gazette January 20, 2017, article on the front page outlining the salaries of elected officials).
I personally feel it is irresponsible for the Mayor, with the Blessings of the City’s Aldermen, to give themselves a raise each year. This action gives the impression of a Pure Conflict of Interest (Self Interest)! In my opinion, this is not the way a responsible government should be working for the people.
Many communities around us have up-to-date infrastructure and always have a project on the drawing board to take advantage of any programs from state or federal governments. I have yet to see or hear about a comprehensive infrastructure plan for the City of New Albany which prioritizes maintenance, street repairs, government facilities, and an emergency severe storm plan that includes storm warnings and shelters for the public, just to name a few. Our streets are falling apart, our water is filthy, and our power goes out every time it thunders. Our elected officials are among the highest paid in the state, yet we have no infrastructure plan.
Many politicians who hold office over 12 years in local government tend to become complacent, develop tunnel vision, become only interested in themselves and retaining their position. In some cases think they are entitled, rather than have to earn that position. Have you ever heard the comments, “I need just four more years so I can have full retirement,” or, “I don’t know what I would do if I’m not elected.”? One should not assume that being “elected” to a public office once or twice means that he/she is guaranteed a career “for life.” If that is what one wants, then he/she should submit a resume’ for a position in government and “work” for the government.
Elected officials do not like to admit that an increase in taxes might be the only solution to a pressing issue. In fact, there are other sources available if they would make the effort to find them. The general statement from politicians is “we don’t have the money,” which in essence they are saying they are too lazy to look for outside funding or do not want to raise taxes for fear of risking not being re-elected. Putting themselves first many times puts the community last. When a community keeps re-electing the same politicians who possess a complacent, passive attitude with leadership that lacks tenacity, vision and ability to plan for the future, in the long-term that community will suffer.
My vision for New Albany is to have good, qualified people in office who have a servant attitude, rather than an entitled attitude, and who are willing to work for the good of the citizens with a desire to make New Albany Greater!
Several people have asked me about my plans to run for office in this election cycle. I appreciate their interest, but due to personal reasons, I will not be seeking public office. Hopefully this letter, with others to come, will inspire more people to consider serving their community as a public official.