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City Council

An Interview With Mayor Gold (Part 1)


If you were wondering whether or not Beacon’s new Mayor, Steve Gold, was up to the task of leading the city, here’s a clue. Just prior to meeting the Dispatch for an hour-long Sunday afternoon interview, Mayor Gold took a call from a Beacon resident. There was a sewer overflow on Oak Street and the Mayor was on the call. “I was pleased that the public works department had taken care of it before I got there,” he said. “The department got there pretty quickly and blew the lines out. So you can rest assured that I didn’t do any plumbing.”

While plumbing the city sewer lines wasn’t listed on Mayor Gold’s CV when he ran for office this past fall, the fact that he was “on the scene” indicates what kind of Mayor Steve Gold plans on being: The kind who rolls up his shirtsleeves and gets right to work.

Mayor Gold was kind enough to spend an hour with the Dispatch, talking about his plans for the city, what’s on his plate after his first two weeks in office, and what his hopes are for the future.

This is part one of a two part feature.

So, you’re several days in to your new job as mayor. How does it feel so far?

It’s great! What I’ve been working on the most is finding a new city administrator and it’s been a really interesting process. One that gives me the opportunity to boast about Beacon and to recognize just how interested people are in moving here to take that position.

What are you looking for in a new city administrator?

The administrator has to have a lot of qualities. And the administrator has to be good at all of them.

The administrator has to have a lot of qualities. And the administrator has to be good at all of them. Customer service, public relations are major factors. Management of city affairs and prior experience in being a city administrator and working with all the municipal departments that a city has. So experience in that area is a must. We’re looking for somebody who, if possible, has a degree in public administration, which I believe all of the candidates we’ve seen so far have. I’m looking for an administrator that has a background in economic development, to help move the city forward.

We’ve been through twenty-five or more resumés, interviewed several people on the phone and in person and the transition team came up with three individuals for me to choose from. So I’ll submit one of these three people to the council and the council will vote to approve.
I have to say that I’ve been really pleased because all of the three candidates I have to choose from satisfy all of the criteria that we’ve outlined.

Is there any desire that whoever does get chosen as the city administrator has to live in the city of Beacon or closer to the city of Beacon and become more a part of the community than the last administrator was?

I don’t think that the administrator has to live in Beacon. I think that if you have the right person it doesn’t matter where the administrator lives. There are pros and cons to both. Of course the perception is that if the administrator lives in Beacon he or she will have a more vested interest in the city because their family lives here. But I don’t want that to become a criteria, where we would lose a great candidate that has all the qualities we need, because he or she is living outside of Beacon and doesn’t want to move into the city.

Are all the candidates you’re looking at from inside the State of New York?

No, we advertised with the International City Administrators Association and we’ve received resumés from all over the country and we’ve flown people in from as far away as Wisconsin. Actually, the candidate is a resident of California and they were in Wisconsin to interview for another administrator position. We had a candidate that came from Portland Maine and we’ve had candidates as close as Wappingers Falls, Walden, and Montgomery.

The transition team has selected three candidates for City Administrator and I will be presenting my selection for City Attorney to the City Council.

The transition team has selected three candidates. One of the candidates hasn’t completed the interviewing process but she was so exceptional on the preliminary interview that we had that she’s been elevated to the level of one of the three final candidates.

The process that we go through is that, if the candidate doesn’t live within driving distance then we do a telephone interview first. If that interview is positive we follow that up with an in-person interview with the transition team and then immediately follow that up with an interview with all the department heads.

I felt that it was a good idea for the city department heads to meet the candidates and for the candidates to meet the department heads so that both parties would have a good idea of who they were going to be working with. I also thought it was important for the department heads to be able to give me input about what they thought about the candidates.

When to you hope to have your decision about the administrator made by?

By next weekend.

Is Joe Braun working right now?

Joe is on vacation and when he returns from vacation it will be his last day of work. Joe hasn’t been the administrator since about the second week in December.

I do want to point out that I have department heads in Beacon that are able to carry the ball with or without an administrator’s oversight. They’re all quality individuals who know their jobs and are always looking out for the best interests of Beacon.

You have other transitional decisions that need to be made. A new city attorney, is there a transition team for that?

The same transition team has interviewed several attorneys and made a recommendation to me that I’m going to turn around and recommend to the council to hire this Monday.
He’s a Yale graduate. He’s been a city attorney for the city of Poughkeepsie. I’ve worked with him in the past and I’ve always valued his opinions, I look forward to him playing a significant role in the city going forward and his name is Dick Wolf.

You also have a potential transition in the Police Department. You’ve had Glenn Scofield as the interim chief of police for quite some time and he’s done a fine job. What are your plans in that direction?

Glenn Scofield has done a superb job since he’s been the acting chief. And he’s working diligently to have the city’s force become NY State accredited and to have the department comply with the requirements set down by the Department of Justice.

Well, the city council passed a resolution back in March, resolution number 41, that called for a search to be made for a city chief of police. I was part of that vote and believe that we have to follow our resolutions. So we advertised for candidates to apply. But we have been focusing on the administrator and the attorney. Once that search is complete we’ll start bringing in some candidates for the chief.

Glenn Scofield has done a superb job since he’s been the acting chief. And he’s working diligently to have the city’s force become NY State accredited and to have the department comply with the requirements set down by the Department of Justice.

In March we’ll be implementing a new Police procedures handbook that incorporates the DOJ’s recommendations, which is a big step towards NYS accreditation.

I believe that the police department is coming back. We’re hiring officers who exemplify the traditional community policing, old “neighborhood cop” disposition and I believe that we are going to have a professional force that is highly motivated to be public servants. And who embody community policing concepts.

By the way, I won’t stand for anything less.

It seems that there’s already been a good transition in the police department. This is hardly the way that you want to measure it, but we’ve been in the news far less than we had in the past. It appears that the animosity that was obvious between the city administrator and the chief of police is gone. Going forward, what are your hopes and desires for rebuilding the relationship between the council, the administrator, and the police department?

Well, I just want to go back and state that the interviewing process for the police chief will be one that is educational for us. But it will take an extraordinary person to change my decision from going forward with Glenn Scofield as the permanent chief.

There needs to be an improvement of the relations between the police department, the administration, and the city council. That is something that I’m looking forward to greatly because I know from being on the city council for ten years, we have a tremendous amount of respect for the work that the Police do. And although there have been some issues, I believe those issues are going to be fully addressed. And the problems will disappear once a permanent chief is named, the handbook is implemented, NYS accreditation is accomplished, and leadership is shown on the part of the mayor and the administrator.

There was some concern prior to the election with regard to the fire houses, the need for repairs or the possiblity of consolidating the fire houses. Any ideas or plans that you have in mind for this?

I think that the most immediate out of the gate concern I have is the need to recruit more volunteer firefighters.

I think that the most immediate out of the gate concern I have is the need to recruit more volunteer firefighters. We need to have more firefighters particularly during the daytime. Those roles keep getting smaller and smaller and their getting to the point that there could be a danger to the public. And if it’s not turned around then the consequences are that the city will have to hire more paid firefighters. And that represents an increase of 1% to every taxpayer for each firefighter that has to be hired. To make it so that we have a 24/7 paid fire department means that we would have to hire at least 4 firefighters which represents a 4% tax increase to every resident if we don’t solve this problem. And that’s something that I refuse to let happen without making every effort to recruit new volunteers.
I’m very confident that we’ll be able to increase the volunteer roles. There are a lot of ideas and approaches that the city can take that would pique people’s interests and give them incentives to join the fire department.

What are the incentives?

The city has already agreed to sign on to a state-wide program for giving a 10% tax reduction on homeownership to volunteer firefighters. I’m willing to increase that amount for firefighters who live in Beacon. That’s only one technique, but there is a whole program of ideas that I have to help stimulate interest.

I’d like to bring more city employees in to firefighting roles, especially during the day when volunteers are needed the most. I’d also like to bring in more participation in daytime volunteers firefighting by the businesses and industries that are in Beacon and offer some form of remuneration for those business to cover the lost time. Or, just appeal to their civic mindedness. There’s no better way to serve the community than to play a significant role in saving people’s lives and properties. The largest return that we’ll see is when we re-educate our population that the role of the volunteer firefighters is one of the most noble acts that any man or woman can perform as a service to the community. And I want there to be more rewards and recognition for our volunteer firefighters.

One of the other approaches that is important for us to take is to let the public know that we are fully open to anyone volunteering and that the fire department is not a closed group. It is a public service organization that wants people from all parts of our community to participate in and to share in serving.

What about the firehouse’s physical infrastructure?

The issue of needing to consolidate is one that hasn’t gone away for the last two years. And I would like our administration to take a hard look at that. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed. It was not concluded when the presentation was made a couple of years ago and I’d like to settle these problems and not let them linger. So, I want to do whatever it takes for the council to get enough information to know whether the right decision is to consolidate all firehouses, consolidate some of them, repair existing houses, or close one down. And that will come through a review of the financial analysis that was done already, augmented with further information. We also need to have a better picture of what the long term debt and financial forecast of the city will be for the next ten years.

To be continued…


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Discussion

2 comments for “An Interview With Mayor Gold (Part 1)”

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading P1. Can’t wait for P2.

    Posted by Gregory H Strong | January 17, 2008, 4:48 pm
  2. [...] This is part two of a two part feature. [...]

    Posted by the Beacon Dispatch | Interview With Mayor Gold (Part 2) | January 30, 2008, 11:03 am

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