08/24/11 — City manager speaks to local Rotary

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City manager speaks to local Rotary

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 24, 2011 1:46 PM

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Goldsboro City Manager Scott Stevens answers questions at a meeting of the Goldsboro Rotary Club on Tuesday at the Goldsboro Country Club. Stevens has been city manager for two weeks.

Goldsboro Rotarians appeared more interested in learning about new City Manager Scott Stevens than any specific city projects or policies.

Stevens spoke to the club at the Goldsboro Country Club on Tuesday.

The few questions raised centered on the fate of the Union Station now that it has failed to receive grant funding. Stevens also was questioned about dilapidated buildings.

Stevens, who has only held the job for two weeks, told Rotarians he is familiar with projects like Union Station, but is still learning about others and would be glad to talk with them further about any of the city projects.

Replacing the missing rail link between Wallace and Castle Hayne and Union Station are good projects that need the support of not 10 people "but lots of us," he said. Other ongoing projects are a computerized traffic system, gates at Herman Park and work Stoney Creek Park, he said.

"Dilapidated houses are a problem," he said. "We generally have ordinances that will allow us to do some in terms of appearances, but in terms of making someone fix their house... it is still though to make people good neighbors and to invest in their homes. It is a challenge for most communities to work through that."

He said he would be glad to look at specific areas that anyone might have concerns about.

Stevens said he has spent most of his first two weeks on the job meeting as many people and seeing as many city-owned facilities as he could.

He asked for the public's patience as he sorts out all of that as well as names.

"I am still learning about a lot of projects and activities in the community and how the city conducts its business," he said. "I do believe the challenge at any level of government, and you may already know this, is knowing what you really want.

"The mayor and council listen. The problem is a third of you want this and two-thirds of you want that or the other third is in the middle. So that is a challenge."

However, local government is in place to serve the public, he said.

Stevens said he expects city employees to be courteous, respectful and efficient. He said he believes that is the case and that he has been pleased with the employees he has met thus far.

"But if you have a different experience please let me know," he said. "We are in the business of enforcing rules and regulations and sometimes people don't like that. They don't like us telling what they can do or can't do. We have to do the job to protect us all for the better good.

"But we need to do that the right way. We ought to be helping you through the regulations instead of using them to slow you down."

Stevens said that local government was about problem solving, something that he enjoys.

"City employees are extremely important to me," he said. "There is not a thing that we can do as a manager or mayor or council without our employees.

"I have spent most of my first two weeks going to employees and giving them a message from me really so I can see them and they can see me and to let them know they are important to us -- that we can't do anything without them."

He also praised the city's management staff that displays a customer service attitude.

"I do expect our employee to be safe, to be professional and to do what they say they are going to do and to treat everyone with respect," he said. "If you see it different, let me know. Perception matters, always. I have told employees that we are all watching, me and you."

If things don't look right Stevens said he plans to call department heads to find out what is going on. Stevens said that based on his past experiences there is normally a good reason for what is being done, even if it doesn't look right.

For example, the public might see employees having breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and question what is going on. What might not be obvious is that the workers were out at 4 a.m. making repairs, he said.

However, he told Rotarians to call him if they see something that does not appear right to them. He promised to find out what was going on and to call them back.

Stevens encouraged the Rotarians to "pump up" Goldsboro. It makes a difference in encouraging or discouraging development, he said.

"I never like to pass up the opportunity to ask a group of people, particularly this kind of group, and I know you do it all of the time -- speak good about the community," he said. "It matters. People are always listening and you never know who is sitting beside you at lunch or who walks up to you."