In spite of their lack of formal preparation for the duties of their offices there are quite a few opportunities and resources to them once they take their oaths. The Mississippi Municipal League offers a wide variety of training options and resource materials. Universities, community colleges, state agencies and nonprofit organizations are available for technical assistance and advice.
The following is a basic economic development primer for mayors of small towns. It is actually an outline. Each of these 26 topics are themselves worthy of full-blown seminars. The purpose here is to give the reader a taste of what its like to deal with some of the subjects that small town mayors encounter on a regular basis. Note that it is presented in second person.
A is for Asset-based economic development. Identify the assets in your community that you can capitalize on.
B is for Plan B. The best leaders are the ones who can manage Plan B.
Although planning is important, things do not always go as planned.
C is for CDBG, the Community Development Block Grant program.
D is for Decisions, which tend to be data-driven or values-driven.
E is for Economy. What drives your town’s economy?
F is for Followers. You are the leader; who’s following you – and what do they want?
G is for Goals, the mileposts along the highway to achieving the vision.
Goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.
H is for Heroes. Who is going to step forward when you need it the most?
I is for Incentives. Economic development prospects are driven by location, workforce and incentives.
J is for Jobs. Economic development is the process of increasing the wealth in your town through creation, recruitment and retention of jobs.
K is for Keystone, the central, topmost stone of an arch (an essential part).
L is for Legacy. A lifetime of achievement is often reduced to one incident or program. What will be your legacy?
M is for Meetings, especially productive meetings – with your board, with citizens, with developers and with prospects. The importance of the agenda.
N is for Numbers, or measurements, that will quantify your town’s progress. Data should be determined early in your administration and tracked on a regular basis.
O is for Observation. Stop looking for the answers you expect to find.
As Yogi Berra said, “You can learn a lot by watching.”
P is for People, or demographics. Know and understand your people.
Q is for Quality. If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
R is for Responsibility. Most strategic plans fail because there is no accountability or responsibility. Hold people accountable.
S is for Story. What is your town’s story, and how can you capitalize on it?
T is for Taxes, especially tax incentives.
U is for Unique. What makes your town unique?
V is for Vision – your vision and your town’s vision.
W is for World View. How does globalization affect your town?
X is for X-Ray. Have some outside expert look “into” you town.
Y is for Youth, the future of your town. What do they think about the future? Do you have a Mayor’s Youth Council?
Z is for Zeal, the synonym for passion. One big difference in towns that succeed and those that do not is passionate leadership.
» Phil Hardwick is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist and owner of Hardwick & Associates, LLC, which provides strategic planning facilitation and leadership training services. His email is phil@philhardwick. com and he’s on the web at www.philhardwick.com.