Editorial: “Mine, mine, mine, mine…”

By Dana Trumbull

Congratulations are in order to Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy on being elected to a second term of office, as well as to the winners of the Council race: Gail Evans (incumbent), Christa Rizzi (incumbent) and Robert Schroeder. Throughout the race, it was apparent that every candidate running for municipal office was highly motivated to serve our community. We appreciate each one, win or lose.

With results certified by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, Sept. 6, Mayor Serdy has officially won his bid for re-election, taking nearly 60% of the votes. That sounds like it should be a lot, but it’s actually only 3,049 ballots – in a city with nearly 40,000 people. Suffice to say that it was a clear victory; a mandate, if you will, among those who cared enough to vote. The voters like the changes they’ve seen and hope to continue the forward motion.

Over the last few years, Apache Junction has definitely raised its image. Clear and visible improvements such as street resurfacing (municipal work approved in Dec. 2014 and continuing, including recently completed ADOT upgrades on Idaho Road/Hwy. 88); new businesses such as Fry’s, Goodwill, Ross and Discount Tire; Flatiron Park (approved as part of a downtown Master Plan in 2015), artwork and new plantings on medians have all contributed to the bubble of positive energy welling up from our streets like the fountains in the new splash pad.

Our incumbents, as well as those Council members who were not up for re-election this year had a lot to do with forwarding these improvements, as did Councilman-elect Schroeder, who is a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

And, really, that is my point.

When I sat down to write this piece, it was with some measure of annoyance over our mayor’s abundant use of the word “I” during the candidate forum hosted by Roadhaven Resort and The AJ/GC News on August 8 (view the “live” feed on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/273405053419/videos/10156698075363420/). During the forum, Mayor Serdy reminded me of the flock of seagulls in Finding Nemo, claiming, “mine, mine, mine, mine” for every good thing that has happened during the past few years.

Now, before the many devoted and vocal Serdy supporters rise up in rage and disdain and flock to the Facebook discussion groups to cast creative dispersions my way: I am not anti-Serdy. I have been pleased to see and feel our city’s reawakening, and I feel strongly that Mayor Serdy played a significant role in making these things happen. And I do understand that the forum format is essentially a job interview, which increases the legitimacy of the frequent references to self (even though it was far more obvious with Mayor Serdy’s responses than with any other candidate). Even so…

It is trite, but true, that, “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM,” but as George Carlin pointed out, there is “I” in “Individual,” and “Innovation” and “Ideas.” Some members of Council would be quick to add that “I” is essential to the word, “Irritant,” as well, but many of the resulting pearls have been helped along by Mayor Serdy’s ideas and individual drive.

My issue is with the mindset that claims ownership of all these changes without acknowledging the team that had to work in concert to breathe life and form into the concepts: the individual Council members, each of whom has the same voting power as the mayor and a majority of whom are required to approve any project, and the many city employees whose innovative efforts are needed to turn ideas into reality.

That’s a lot of “I”s from a lot of individuals.

And it is the mayor’s job to corral all those “I’s” into a cohesive “We.” So, perhaps it is more appropriate to point out that “I” is also an essential part of “Leadership;” however, it is a word in which “I” takes a secondary position: the act of building a team and working with them to bring out the best ideas and efforts from each one, acknowledging the many views and valuing those insights as enabling every one to see all the way around an issue, and then bringing the many individuals together to reach consensus and cohesive action.

When discussing specific topics, Open Meeting laws require the mayor to do this in open session or even (shock and horror) in executive session, if an open discussion might give unfair advantage to a vendor or developer; but restricting discussion to only one’s “allies” does not foster consensus (approximately 1:57:08 in the forum link above: “I’m going to communicate with the ones who are allies, who won’t work against me”). The “allies” are already in agreement; they aren’t the ones who need to be persuaded.

It may seem counterintuitive, but embracing the opposition is usually the best way to work through to a solution that best serves all the people, and thus best serves the city. Perhaps it would be more productive for the mayor to “communicate” with some few members who disagree with him in order to reach a better understanding of their reasoning and find common ground. (Open Meeting laws allow Council members, including the mayor, to discuss topics with a non-quorum few outside of Council chambers.)

For all that has been accomplished over the last few years without the benefit of a cohesive effort, how much more could be attained over the next two years if everyone on the Council begins with an acceptance of mutual respect, nurtured by the common desire to shape the future of our unique township while preserving our cherished past?

Our city has a phenomenal team of both elected and employed individuals, and effective leadership must pull them all together to make ideas happen.

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