…Almost one for every hat that she wears.   My first formal interview with Thornton Mayor Heidi Williams certainly wasn’t at a loss for words.  We started at the ‘beginning’, if there could be one, behind the passion and capability of Thornton’s Mayor-Elect.

 

They say our society is about labels and I guess I’m no exception in trying to find them.  I first sought to figure out, of what Heidi Williams is most comprised.  Business Owner?  School Board Member?  Resident?  Mother?  Politician?   Mine was less an intent to prejudice our conversation or conserve words than to figure out the enigma of this political figure.  I thought simply, ‘there’s a single motive behind Heidi Williams’ and was determined to quickly find it.

 

So I dug deeper … .  In the process, I found that it wasn’t a purely political motive that spawned an interest in becoming Mayor any more than Mayor Williams’personas of district board member and business owner could be individually credited for what appears to be a very broad based mayoral agenda for the City of Thornton.

 

Assuming the Office of Mayor of Thornton isn’t an easy task – particularly  after a year’s vacancy in the position subject to former Mayor Erik Hansen’s election to County Commissioner.   But the fact that this incoming Mayor does not have a dominant motive  for ‘political correctness’ is admittedly surprising.

 

It’s not to say that she isn’t politically correct.  .  It’s just that Mayor Heidi Williams doesn’t make it her first priority.  Instead, she’s visibly open, candid, and direct.  Unlike many political figures whose public showing is about compromise,  there really are no “sides” to Mayor Williams.  Independent of context or who she might be talking to, Mayor Williams’ “sides” are her persona and her professional position, melded into a single new Mayor.

 

Hat #1″: The Economy.   The difference she’s set on making in this arena is in her broad consideration of business growth.  She firstly accepted my congratulations on having made neighboring communities jealous over Thorton’s successful bid for Cabella’s.  But she expounded on her conception of what “success” truly entails in the realm of economic development.   “Big businesses are great,” stated Mayor Williams, “but we need to be equally concerned regarding what our new commerce means in terms of job creation, too…”

 

On Management Style.     Mayor Williams is a blend between old school, new school, and the late Andy Rooney.   She’s point blank logical.    She drew reference to a recent council session on bees and chickens.   Yes, the City of Thornton was reviewing legislation concerning the efficacy of residents housing bees and chickens.  And surprisingly honey and poultry have more in common than you might think – especially under the logical gavel of Mayor Heidi Williams.

 

“As with many council discussions, things might have been tied up for hours with testimony on all sides of the issues.   But it really came down to something more basic, said our currently-seated Mayor:  ‘the issue was simply, who’s affected by bees and who’s affected by chickens….”

 

Elegant simplicity is what seems to both save council hours these days in Thornton as well as get things done.  And it appears to be less a function of the makeup of the agendas, themselves as a determination by Mayor Williams toward timeliness and effectiveness.

 

 

On Council Balance.    I asked Mayor Heidi Williams about the power (im?)balance between herself, the Council, Mayor Pro Tem, Eva Henry, and City Manager, Jack Etheredge.   And I was surprised.  Credit again, this Mayor’s directedness, albeit one inflected with a local respect and admiration for her council.

 

“Jack Etheredge is very professional and balanced and his experience adds tremendously to the Council… [Mayor Pro Tem] Eva Henry and may not agree on all the issues, but we have personalities that are similar and this creates a positive working relationship.  It’s good because we respect each other as individuals and professionals…”

 

Council can be divided, of course, and Mayor Williams has no hesitation in stating that ‘division happens’.  In fact a recent council session’s agenda over unionized labor polarized the Thornton’s chambers on both sides of an issue regarding whether the City should support a local retailer’s bid for municipal use of exclusively union labor concerning their local contract or not.

 

On Synergies, growth & development.   “I’d like to see a balance between big business and jobs,” said the Mayor, “and regarding what it can do for residential growth…”   (I had given her my congratulations on Thornton’s successful bid for Cabella’s super store in Thornton and obviously was curious about her quest to keep the surrounding cities jealous).

 

And what about synergies?   With the School Districts?  Between departments?  With private business?   Said Mayor Williams, “We have had a very integrated Economic Development Department who has always worked closely with Council.  Regarding the City’s integration and synergies with the School District, we’ve had successes there too, in the past.  Whether it has to do with maintenance of vehicles or property, it makes good economic sense to let one group handle an entire project if they can do it more easily or less expensive…”    Her discussion further reflected the concept and potential for “transfer pricing”, a term often applied in a corporate setting in which one department might be “billed” for services performed by another department.   The concept of “departmentalizing” the City of Thornton on along the vein of efficiency and cost savings appears progressive and is also the intrigues and management fortes of Thornton’s City Manager, Jack Etheredge.  It was also the basis for an award presented to the City of Thornton by the Denver Council of Governments (DRCOG).

 

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