Newberry mayoral hopefuls see role of mayor very differently
Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 8:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 8:48 p.m.
Voters in Newberry shouldn't be surprised to see Mayor Bill Conrad on their doorstep.
Family: Wife: Martha, Children: Bryan Conrad, Annie Overman
Elected posts: Current mayor, former city commissioner
Occupation: Property management
Family: Wife: Joy, Children: Joshua, Sara (deceased), Logan, Hillary
Elected posts: former mayor and city commissioner
He's trying to visit all of them before the city election on April 9.
"In Newberry, the expectation of our citizens is they'll get a front-porch visit," he said. "I'm doing my best to get out and knock on everybody's door."
Although Conrad is centering his efforts on conversing with voters about the city's future, his opponent John Glanzer, a former Newberry mayor, said he decided to run because he sees a troubling disconnect between the mayor and the city commissioners and staff.
Glanzer has a long history in Newberry city government, dating back to 1983, when he first was elected to the City Commission. He served almost continuously from then until 2000, when he lost an election. But he later was elected mayor and served from 2004 to 2009, when he lost to former Mayor Harry Nichols.
Glanzer previously worked as the city of Archer's city manager and now works with his wife, Joy, at her company, Prestwick Realty. Glanzer, 61, first arrived in Newberry in 1974 as a single parent and met his wife a few years later.
"Why do I love Newberry so much? They accepted me as a single parent. When I moved into that town, I had long hair; I was a hippy; I had a son," he said. "And there were no issues. I was accepted by the community."
Since leaving office in 2009, he said he has seen a growing disconnect in terms of interpersonal communication during both Nichols' and Conrad's time as mayor.
"I don't want to impugn anything on anyone's part, but there's a lack of communication going on and a lack of trust that's evident between the commission and the mayor, and the mayor and the administration," he said.
The mayor doesn't vote on city issues, leaving the decision-making to the City Commission. As a result, Glanzer said, the mayor plays a vital role as a facilitator who develops a consensus among commissioners and city staff.
The mayor is a conduit between the city administration, city staff and residents, and they need to reflect the commission's decisions in a positive manner regardless of whether he or she agrees with them, he said.
"It's very important for the mayor's position to be open and accepting of differences of opinions," he said. "I hate to say it, but it's something we can see in our federal government right now. People don't talk. They don't talk to each other. They don't agree to compromise."
In Newberry, the mayor needs to be the facilitator who starts those conversations and helps everyone at City Hall find a common ground through which they can reach solutions, he said.
"The mayor is kind of like the pivot point in our city, and that position needs to be able to communicate with everybody and not have a breakdown in communications between people," he said.
Conrad, however, views his role as being a voice for what residents want, even if the commission is planning to take a different path.
"My view is that if all the mayor's going to do is endorse what the commission does, why do you need a mayor?" he said. "I'm there for the people, not for the commissioners."
While Glanzer said he would focus his efforts on fostering better communication among city staff, city commissioners and residents as mayor, Conrad cited improving the city's financial situation as his key goal if re-elected.
Conrad was elected to the City Commission in 2006, re-elected in 2009 and voted into office as mayor in 2011. He previously served in the U.S. Air Force and as a Gainesville police officer before starting Conrad Construction, which builds and remodels homes in Alachua County.
His time at City Hall has been marked by an ambitious effort to make a name for Newberry as a hub for sports tourism — something both he and Glanzer consider an economic engine for the area.
When Conrad joined the City Commission, he became involved in two key projects that are expected to draw visitors to town: the archery-centric Easton Newberry Sports Complex and the baseball-focused Nations Park.
The archery complex is developing into what the city hopes will be a training ground for future Olympic athletes in the sport of archery.
"Our goal is to turn out an Olympic gold medal winner out of the Newberry facility," he said.
Conrad said residents are happy with the city's vision of building a local sports tourism industry. If the city can bring a steady stream of tourists to town, those people will eat at local restaurants and spend money in local stores, he said.
Glanzer said he also believes developing a reputation as a sports destination will create economic opportunities in Newberry.
"We're trying to develop a niche where our businesses locally can generate some money and have an economy that will create job opportunities for our citizens," he said.
But as Newberry has tried to fuel its economy through projects such as the archery center and baseball park, Conrad said it has built up some debt. Managing that will be the focus of his next term as mayor if he is re-elected.
"It has not been without a price tag," Conrad said of the city's sports-related efforts.
He said his goal will be to get the city back to a balance in terms of addressing its debt and managing the financial responsibility of running this sports-centric operation. He said he doesn't want to raise taxes or utility rates on residents but rather make cuts in the city's discretionary spending budget.
"That's not as exciting as building baseball fields, but that's something that goes hand in hand with it," he said.
Glanzer said the city's debt is legitimate in the sense that the money was used on positive projects such as infrastructure and the city's archery complex. While it is important to manage that debt, he pointed out that the city shouldn't slash and burn its budget in terms of cuts to pay it off quickly — especially since cities like Newberry already have budgets that are pretty "lean and mean."
"You always look to keep your budget tight," he said. "It's a year-to-year type thing you look at."
Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or email@example.com.