I hope you and your family are well and the cold weather of the past few weeks has not been too hard on anyone. Monica and I have both been at home with "flu" like illness for the past ten days, and I can tell you that it is an improvement to be up and about again. Last week’s paper had a couple of things that I would like to clarify so that there are no misunderstandings. One was some comments in the letter to the editor about the City Administrator position and the role of the elected officials. Concern was expressed about the turnover we have had locally during the past few years in this position, and the first comment that needs to be made is that this is really not all that unusual. I have worked with each of the past four Administrators as either an elected official or a volunteer in City matters, and each have had distinct strengths and some weaknesses. One thing I have learned from other Mayors around the state is that the average job expectancy for a City Administrator or Manager in a small town is only three years because of the constant strains and the political pressures. Of the past four Administrators I am personally familiar with, one left because he never made a real commitment to Mason and a "better" job came along, two left during a period of significant political divisiveness that was hurtful to professionally fulfilling the job duties, and our most recent Administrator made the decision to resign based on a number of personal and business factors which were beyond our control to change. If anyone has concerns about any of the individuals and the specific circumstances of the local politics for the past several years, I would be glad to discuss it at any time.
The second part of the issue is what exactly is the role of elected officials in city government, and have we been doing our job reasonably well. The primary function that I see we fill is to be listening to the public and working to meet the needs or concerns we hear about. That is almost always in the form of specific problems that call for identifying and communicating specific solutions, and most of the time that looks like "micro-managing" city affairs. For the past eight months I have been filling the role of both Mayor and City Administrator, and I have tried to be very responsive when one of the Commissioners comes with a specific problem, but the reality is that those are a very small portion of the problems that need to be dealt with each week in the City Office. The bigger role of the elected officials is to provide direction and leadership for the community as a whole, and to provide the approvals and decisions that lead toward progress and providing a growing town for all of us to live and work in. The role of your elected officials is to listen carefully to needs and concerns of every citizen who is willing to share them, and then to provide the directions both "macro" and "micro", both large and small, to help the city move forward. The City Administrator is a position that should manage to work on the problem areas while at the same time overseeing the day to day services and jobs that keep our community working smoothly. It takes a special kind of person, and I hope that in the next couple of weeks we will find just the right person to take that role in our town. It has been suggested that perhaps we don’t even need a new Administrator since things have been going so well for the past several months, but I can tell you that it takes someone a full eight hours a day to keep up with all of the complexity of our town and those of us who have been meeting the needs recently have other obligations as well.
The other question that came to me was about the Reverse Osmosis water system that will be built at the Richard Eckert Civic Center with the grant money from LCRA. This is a project that has been discussed for at least three years to provide a source of non-contaminated drinking water for any and all citizens of Mason who wish to stop by and get their water containers filled at no cost. There will be eight stations that supply treated water, and a system that will treat and store several thousand gallons of water every day. The Reverse Osmosis treatment system will remove all the trace minerals that we have in our hard water, as well as the chlorine that we are required to add to drinking water and the Radium that is naturally occurring in our water. In addition I have planned that there will be new restrooms included that will provide handicap access for that facility and make it really usable by everyone in our community. The LCRA grant is being supplemented by a local grant from the Mason Community Foundation that runs the Thrift Store, and the City will provide some of the necessary funding, and I hope that by the end of Spring we have another benefit available to our community. Mason is a great hometown, and I hope you will continue to work with us to make it even better in the months and years to come.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley