Mayor Speaks on ‘New Direction’

Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross.

BLYTHEWOOD – Referring to himself as the CEO of the Town of Blythewood and discussing the new direction he sees for the Town, Mayor J. Michael Ross cast himself firmly in a new leadership role during an exclusive 45-minute interview with The Independent Voice last week. This is the first of several interviews planned about the town’s new direction.

The Voice: How much will the Town Attorney, Jim Meggs, be paid and how many hours will he work in his new position as the Town’s Interim Administrator?

Mayor: We have approved $75 an hour for Mr. Meggs for 20 hours a week*. He will work 8-1 Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Of course with his work at his law firm, he might have to be in court some of that time. I look forward to a 20-hour-a-week Town Administrator. I think this is something Council and I need to evaluate. Does the Town of Blythewood need a 40-hour per week, $115,000 Administrator? Potentially, did we ever need that? The thing that’s exciting here is critical. After John (Perry) was no longer coming in to the office after Dec. 29, I am the CEO of the Town and the administrator works for me, but Martie, Chris, Martha, Booth, Kirk and me – we all did an admiral job running the office, basically, without a Town Administrator since Dec. 29.

(Editor’s Note: Meggs is being paid $20 more per hour than Perry was paid.)

V: Will the Town continue in the progressive direction that John Perry visioned for the Town or will there be a new direction?

Mayor: I don’t see what we have done as ‘John’s plan’. I see it as the Town’s plan. We may not be as flashy as John was, and Mr. Meggs probably won’t attend every Town meeting. He will let us, the elected officials, do that. Mr. Meggs will be more of a cut and dried administrator, doing administrative duties.

V: Was Mr. Perry not a cut and dried administrator?

Mayor: He was very progressive and an out of the box thinker. He did drive things for the Town every day, every minute, every second. There’s a lot to be said for that. But is that what people in Blythewood want? We have to be sure what the people’s vision is.

V: But after your election, you were vocal to many in the Town and to The Voice, that you had come to realize that what you read in the newspaper before your election was not true, that the community was happy with the direction the Town was going and that there were no problems in the town government, that everything was perfect. You said you found that the Town’s park and development plans were financially sound and that it was all run smoothly by Mr. Perry. What changed your mind?

Mayor: I think that when you get in there, it might take more than six months or a year or a year and a half to gain the knowledge. As I’ve gotten more hands on, I believe that for where the Town of Blythewood wants to go and the pace (the people) want to go, that John’s leaving might be a good thing. I now think it’s what the majority of the people have always said they wanted.

V: When John Perry brought many of these plans to the (town) boards, they were clearly his ideas and his to explain to the boards. Don’t you think more people, now, have come to appreciate Perry’s more progressive vision for Blythewood? You voted to carry out every one of those plans.

Mayor: This past election in November opened my eyes – the vote to remove incumbents who had been there for 8 years doing what they had done, to get voted out and a new group voted in with a more conservative view point. The people spoke and said we want these guys, not those guys. The (new members) ran on a platform that said we’re going to look at things more closely and, probably, as I saw that coming, it helped me not to worry that we could lose John Perry as our administrator. John was a brilliant guy and he loved being Town Administrator. He had a vision for the Town. The new people (on council) came in with a different approach for looking at things, to feel comfortable that the project is a safe, secure project. My mind has been changed. Now I realize that this is what the people want.

V: Where does the Town government stand with the depot/restaurant plans?

Mayor: We are gathering financial information from Mr. Bazinet and his LLC’s, from everywhere. We are continuing to work on that. But my eyes are open to re-look at it. I would not disrespect our previous council for our decisions. I guess our experience in business was enough to satisfy us, but another group has come in who might want to look at it closer. We will have a building we will have to pay $8,000 a month for. It’s like any other thing that people go in to business with, except it’s the Town going into business, and that does scare me, and it was a concern brought up by the new council members.

V: You don’t think Mr. Perry could have successfully managed the Town through to the vision?

Mayor: There was a total change in where this Town’s government and politics were headed, as was determined by the November election. The people were saying slow down and think about stuff. Maybe we don’t want all of this. John worked so closely with (former councilmen) Ed (Garrison) and Paul (Moscati) for so long and it was their vision, but the people now say they don’t want that vision any more.