So you want to run for mayor of Seymour?
You still have time to reach a decision with the filing period opening for the 2019 municipal election Wednesday. The deadline to file is noon Feb. 8.
Maybe you have decided to run and want to know what exactly it is you’re getting yourself into before you take your oath of office.
Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman announced he will not seek a fourth term, making the race open for the first time since 2007. Voters will select his successor Nov. 5.
The mayor is the executive body of the city’s government. He or she is responsible for the daily operations of the city.
Luedeman shared some insight on what the mayor does each day and what is expected from them.
One of the biggest responsibilities the mayor has is overseeing and submitting the city’s budget. The 2019 budget for the city is nearly $19 million.
The mayor and staff begin the budget process in late June, crunch the numbers and make adjustments until October. The council passed the city’s 2019 budget during a meeting in October.
“It’s not every day, but it’s a long, drawn-out process,” Luedeman said.
The process is made easier when you prioritize what the city needs, Luedeman said.
“Here’s what we can afford, here’s a little bit of a dream and then a really big dream,” he said. “Then we have some budget meetings with the council and share what it will do to the tax rate.”
Communication with the council is key to moving the budgeting process along.
“You have to keep the council aware of where you’re at with the budget and ultimately get them to pass it,” Luedeman said.
You’ll have to oversee the city’s assets, which include the water treatment plant, police department, fire department, stormwater lines and more.
Running local government
The mayor oversees the seven-member city council and serves as president of the board of works. The board of works spends the money the council appropriates.
There are two council and two board of works meetings each month, and the mayor is expected to attend.
The council is the legislative branch, the mayor is the executive branch and the board of works serves as the judicial and executive branch.
The city also has a number of employees and departments to manage. The police and fire departments, public works, water control, planning and zoning and transit department are part of the mayor’s responsibility to oversee.
The city has between 210 and 220 employees depending on the time of the year between the city’s main departments.
Luedeman said he meets with department leaders once a week to make sure everyone is on the same page, address concerns, see if the department can provide mutual assistance and more.
“You’re in charge of departments and their day-to-day operations,” Luedeman said.
Whoever is elected mayor gets to choose who will serve as police chief and fire chief and lead each of the departments. The mayor also chooses the city’s attorney.
There will be a number of projects, including the Burkart Bypass, that will be underway when the next mayor takes over. There also will be the sewer project south of the city, a federal Opportunity Zone, annexation of the Pffafenburger subdivision and the conversion of city offices to solar power.
The mayor also can routinely seek economic development here. Time is spent communicating with Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., attending events and grand openings, approving tax abatements at council meetings and more.
Sometimes, the mayor takes trips abroad to seek economic development. Luedeman has been to Japan multiple times and to Europe to make pitches to companies to select Seymour for potential operations in this country.
The mayor is expected to attend a slew of meetings with government officials and business leaders when he travels for those trips.
“For those trips to Japan, it’s nothing to start meetings at 8 in the morning and have your last one at 10 or 11 at night,” he said.
Many may think a trip to Japan would be a dream. While travel can be nice and the trips do provide a new experience, they aren’t all fun and games.
“When I’ve gone, I’ve seen a lot of hotel rooms and conference rooms,” Luedeman said. “It’s not like you’re going out to see a play or spend time sightseeing.”
The mayor is the decision-maker on a number of issues when disaster strikes. From spending and providing resources to operating a command center, the mayor oversees what the city can do when those events take place.
Thankfully, that is not something that occurs often, but it has happened. Such was the case in 2008 when the flood hit, affecting local residents in the city.
Luedeman was just months into his first term as mayor when he was having to make decisions for evacuations and more.
“That was baptism by fire,” he said. “I stayed out until 2 in the morning one day and was back at it at 5.”
Those moments can be stressful, but Luedeman said it is manageable by having good department leaders.
“You surround yourself with people who know how to do things, and you can get a lot done just by having the right people,” he said.
In 2017, two downtown buildings caught fire, and Luedeman was there o make sure police and firefighters had everything they needed to battle the blaze.
Serving the public
The mayor takes a lot of criticism, and the rise of social media has opened the door to even more criticism. Luedeman said the next mayor needs to make sure they have a thick skin and not take it too personally.
Luedeman said he deals with the public in some capacity each day.
“It’s phone calls, emails, text messages, visits and people sharing their concerns,” he said. “That’s part of the job, and it’s what you’re expected to do.”
No day is the same, either, Luedeman said.
“Some days, you don’t have any phone calls and things are easy,” he said. “There are other days when I’ve had meetings from 8 in the morning until 6 at night every hour on the hour.”
But the next mayor should be committed to serving the public and take the job seriously.
“You don’t just work during the day, but you work during the night and need to be accessible,” he said.