By Michael Howell
The Stevensville Town Council appointed Gene Mim Mack to serve out the remaining term of former mayor Lew Barnett, who recently resigned in the face of what he called the incessant “bullying” tactics of Council President Pat Groninger. Groninger was also one of six applicants for the position, but failed to make it to the interview stage. He cast the lone dissenting vote against Mim Mack’s appointment.
Asked at his interview why he wanted to be mayor, Mim Mack said that the evolution of the town and the evolution of the councils since he came to town over seven years ago presents a unique opportunity right now for someone with his skills to lend a hand.
“I’m a little bit of an outsider. I’ll bring a little different perspective to the office,” he said. “I’ve got skills in conflict resolution and I think right now is a good time to take on the role.”
Mim Mack said that the role of mayor was defined by statute and includes the responsibilities involved in managing the town’s employees, as well as working with the town clerk to produce a budget for consideration by the council. He said the job also involves a fiduciary responsibility for handling town funds and comes with a veto power over council decisions, including a line item veto power over budgeting items.
Aside from the legal responsibilities of the job, Mim Mack wanted to talk about the unofficial duties, which he felt were also very important.
“Part of the job is to have a public face,” he said, “and on occasion be a voice for the town’s people and represent the town at community events.” He said he felt that fulfilling these unofficial duties was also a very important part of the job.
Mim Mack said that he had a reputation in town of taking on difficult community projects and taking them to completion. He said he would bring the same work ethic to the job of mayor. He said that he had good “people skills” honed over years of working as a general contractor.
He said that sometimes conflicts do arise on the council and that he developed a good set of conflict resolution skills when working as a family therapist in Alaska.
“I’m a consensus builder,” said Mim Mack. He said the position as mayor needs a lot of cooperation from the various departments to get an understanding of what’s expected and needed by each department. He said he would encourage department heads to speak their minds.
Mim Mack said that besides preparing a budget for council consideration the mayor also has the obligation to oversee the implementation of the budget on a constant basis.
“If there are areas of trouble in the budget, it’s the mayor’s job to take it to the council before it becomes a crisis,” he said. He said that giving the council a quarterly budget update was probably a good idea.
Mim Mack said that his philosophy of personnel management was to hold himself to a very high standard and lead by example.
“If the employees get the sense that you will deal with them in an honest, straightforward way, with no tricks or codes, when the time comes and issues have to be dealt with, they will have confidence in you and have some trust in the system,” he said.
Besides working for 20 years as a general contractor who did his own plumbing and electrical work and working as a family therapist for several years after that, Mim Mack also spent about 10 years sailing around the South Pacific with his wife and partner Robbie Springs and their daughter, Alison.
Mim Mack told the council that it was in the South Pacific that he gained some experience with grant writing and grant implementation as he spearheaded three different projects on the island of Vanuatu after writing and receiving grants from the governments of Australia and New Zealand.
Mim Mack and his family came to Stevensville about seven and a half years ago. They purchased and restored the old hospital building, making it over into a classy historical hotel. Mim Mack also manages an apartment complex that he created by moving a building into town and also owns and manages the Kohl Building which houses several local businesses.
Mim Mack said that he had the time to devote to the job and would put in enough hours, “to meet my personal requirements of being able to do a good job, to meet the council’s requirements and the requirements of the town’s employees, as well as the needs of the citizens.”
He said that if there was one overriding issue facing the town it was to overcome the disjunction between the town government and its citizens that many folks were feeling and he was ready to facilitate dialogue in that regard.
Mim Mack will serve out the remainder of Barnett’s term as mayor, which ends in 2013.