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Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson: Wrapping up Her Term and Preparing the City for the Future

By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor

Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks Hudson has a white board in her office on the wall on the far side of the room from her desk. The board has a list of tasks and priorities and was set up several years ago not long after she first moved into the office. The tasks – providing safe water, fixing the roads, making neighborhoods safe, increasing government efficiencies, diversifying the economy – have been the guideposts for the mayor and her administration during her three years as chief executive of the City of Toledo.

As she finishes up her final weeks in office, Hicks-Hudson, the city’s first African-American female mayor, uses that board and the guideposts scribbled there to gauge her success at running a city of almost 300,000 citizens. And as she assesses how she and her administration have handled those assignments, she is pleased about her team’s success at staying on task. “Safe water, fixing roads, safe neighborhoods,” she answers about her satisfaction with the direction the city is headed in as she prepares to leave the 22nd floor of One Government Center. “We’ve done most of it,” she says.

While the guideposts are written on the left side of the board – over to the right are the departments assigned to handle the tasks. The mayor’s goal for dispensing those chores has been to “remove the silos of those departments” so that they can interact cooperatively and efficiently.

The results have been gratifying for the city’s highest office holder. The water is safe and is an effective economic development tool, she adds. When Cleveland Cliffs made the decision to move its operations earlier this year to East Toledo, the company did so because of the city’s water, she notes.

 The neighborhoods will be safer, she believes, especially with the increased installation of LED lighting and with the city’s emphasis on Engage Toledo, which allows citizens the opportunity not only to reach out to government officials but also to gain information on how the city operates.

Most of all, neighborhood streets are being paved for the first time in almost 10 years, says the mayor.

“My legacy is that we have moved the city forward and helped make it a 21st century city,” reflects Hicks-Hudson.

Unfortunately for the mayor and her supporters, that message was not effectively communicated to a majority of the city’s voters last month.

“We weren’t able to get our message out and refute some of the things in the media,” the mayor acknowledges. “And we didn’t get enough of the base out. We did a lot of contacts but not enough. And the early vote and absentee vote was not as strong as I had hoped. My job, as a candidate, is to get voters out. I take the weight for that.”

An inability to control the message stems in part from the widespread distrust of government that is so typical with the American citizenry in modern times – a distrust that has been perhaps the most frustrating part of the mayor’s job, says the mayor herself. She points, as an example, to this past summer’s widely disseminated rumor that the City would be issuing a “do not drink the water” advisory, an advisory that was never under consideration given the current safety of the region’s water. Still the rumor is reflective of a “Show me” attitude that  so many elected officials face from the moment they take the oath of office.

What’s next for the City’s chief executive? “I don’t know,” says Hicks-Hudson. “I’m still mayor so I’m still working on those things a mayor is supposed to do.” As an example of that ongoing work, she points out that just in the past few days, her administration cut a deal to increase the installation of LED lighting in the city’s neighborhoods. “I’m finishing up the job, trying to transition in the proper way. The reason I ran is because the city needs a continued forward movement.”

A particular concern for Hicks-Hudson is the lack of assistance that the nation’s cities can expect from other governing bodies. “Congress is in gridlock and the State is assaulting workers … we have to do it ourselves,” she says. So whether she stays in the public sector or returns to the private, the trajectory of Hicks-Hudson’s future will be decided by what she feels is the best way to keep moving her neighbors and fellow citizens forward.

“My life has been one of service,” says Hicks-Hudson as she reflects on what the next phase of her life may bring. She is not certain what the next few years may hold for her but she certainly knows what the past three have held. “It is about how we move the city forward – making a difference is more important than what my title is.


Copyright © 2017 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/16/18 14:12:37 -0700.

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