I probably should not get into this subject, but a little introspection never hurts. Well, maybe it only hurts a little bit.
It was really easy when I was a candidate two years ago to defiantly proclaim that Paducah had a deep talent pool so why would we ever go out of town for a consultant. Well, it isn’t for that consultant’s look of khaki slacks and blue blazer, I can assure you.
I was talking with my friend Charles today, and the subject of consultants came up. “Why go out of town to hire one of those guys?” he asked. I was on the spot with a friend and a voter. I explained it this way. I’m really interested in making Paducah more bicycle friendly. That friendliness includes Paducah being a “walkable city” also. I told him before I was a city commissioner I had read the book Walkable City by Jeff Speck. I was really impressed with his ideas for city “bikeability” and “walkability,” and thus its appeal to a vibrant younger generation. I will not bore you with the facts of his book, but just stay with me on this.
Fast forward to early this year. City Manager Jeff Pederson and I were discussing Jeff Speck. He had read the book earlier also, and he had a plan hatched to bring Jeff Speck here, yes as a consultant. Why did I fall into this trap of consultancy? Simple. In this case, I wanted a noted city planner, a walkable city, bike friendly guy, to help me get the city where I thought it should be headed. Yes, I wanted to get some real horsepower to bolster my position. Charles, I asked, “Wouldn’t you do the same thing?” He got it. So whether it’s bikes and walking, theater renovation, or your favorite desire for the city, sometimes it’s O.K. to go outside and get the person who really is the recognized expert.
This doesn’t mean to simply park your brain and follow the consultant, skipping merrily behind. It does mean being exposed to new ideas and the challenge of working through those ideas to find the ones that best fit our community.
So, as my dad shared with me as a returning college graduate, “Don’t saw yourself off” with absolutes. Instead, be flexible. Well, and I guess here is the punch line, if you can see your way clear to support me for another two years, I promise to lighten up on the absolutes and promise to stay the kind of commissioner you have encouraged me to be.
Oh, and before I forget, Jeff Speck isn’t the kind of consultant who wears khakis or a blue blazer.