City Manager Andy Barton joins the City of Mesquite Staff May 7. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.
"I think it's the duty of every civil servant to provide the best level of customer service possible," remarked the new Mesquite City Manager Andy Barton in a recent interview with the Mesquite Citizen Journal.
Even after losing 31 positions in city government over the last few years, Barton believes Mesquite residents still deserve that. "I believe that the more people that participate in the public process, the better the decision making process is."
Typically he believes in an open door policy saying, "no one needs an appointment to see me. If they want to stop by City Hall at anytime to talk to me, I'm available for that. I'm more than happy to listen. I can't give everyone what they want all the time. But I promise if people have an issue, they will be heard. I will do my best to get an answer to them as quickly as possible."
Rather than facing the "daunting task" of making public comment at a City Council meeting, Barton believes there's a less intimidating way to allow citizens to be heard by city government. "In previous jobs I've held neighborhood meetings. We go and meet in a particular neighborhood and invite the folks from that neighborhood. We talk about projects that pertain to that particular neighborhood."
"People are less intimidated at these meetings. It makes government more accessible to them. I would like to do these a couple times a year," he said. "It doesn't hurt to have a road show."
"My job is not to make policy. Staff's job is to provide Council with the best information possible and recommendations upon which they can act," Barton said. "I understand the difference between the legislative and executive branches of government. I am the executive branch and my bosses are the legislative branch. My job is to help them make informed policy decisions."
He isn't in any particular hurry to make significant changes to the operations within City Hall saying that "I need to be here for weeks or a couple months before I can make an assessment. I will be taking a serious look at operations. I will be talking to department heads to find out what works and what isn't working. We'll try to fix those that aren't working."
"A city needs commerce to survive," Barton remarked as he discussed the challenges of managing a city during economic hard times. "I'm fortunate coming to Mesquite. There has been wonderful stewardship of economic resources. We were able to come up with a balanced, general fund budget this year. This city also has a healthy [budget] reserve."
"We're not proposing any positions be cut this year. More importantly, we're not proposing any services to Mesquite residents be cut this year either. Kudos to the people who managed this previously to me."
"We still have to watch our resources. Many things I'd like to do are going to be tempered by financial realities," he said.
"It's my understanding that there is an extremely involved electorate
here," Barton commented in the second portion of the video interview. "I think it's a very positive thing for the city and the elected officials as well."
One of the things he'd like to see the City do is increase its use of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Web sites to increase its communication with citizens. "That kind of thing really helps draw people in. I'm going to be looking at ways to communicate more frequently and more creatively with residents."
"I think having a really good Web site and one that people can use outside the community and inside is really important," he said.
He also remarked that the people who don't use technology still "need to be reached out to. I recognize that not everyone is wired."
A native of Massachusetts, Barton has held a variety of government and private sector jobs around the country from Florida to Alaska to Seattle, Washington. After earning a Master's Degree in Business Administration he worked for the City of Bellevue, WA in the Finance Department. He later took a $5-an-hour intern position in the City Manager's office in Kirkland, WA. "I worked my way up to Assistant City Manager."
He added a second Master's Degree in Public Administration and held a variety of positions while employed by the City of Kirkland, WA. "One of the more time-consuming and interesting jobs I had was the City Ombudsman. I did a lot with complaint resolution. It was a very good experience for me career-wise. What I found out was that I never learned anything by listening to myself. I developed a capacity and desire to listen to others and to not be judgmental. It was good training for being a City Manager."
Barton worked in the private sector for seven years as a business manager for physician practices. He left that and went back into public employment as the Town Administrator in New Castle, Colorado, with about 4,500 residents.
"About three years ago, my wife and I were on vacation in California. As we were driving back, we decided to spend the night in Mesquite. I remember telling my wife that this was a beautiful community and that I would love to come and manage a city like this someday."
When he saw the advertisement for the City Manager's position in Mesquite, he says he applied for it, "hoping for the best. I was both stunned and really pleased when I was notified that I would get to interview [for the position]. When I came down here the day before the interview and toured the city, I told my wife, 'I hope I get this. This is a beautiful community. I want to be a part of it.'"
"I'm very pleased to be here and very proud to be a part of this community," Barton commented.
On a personal note, he remarked that his wife intends to become involved in the arts community. "I neither golf nor gamble. I've found other ways to humiliate myself in public" than on the golf course. Barton and his wife reside in Sun City Mesquite.
Posted Date: 05/15/2012 It is encouraging to hear that Mr. Barton is web savvy. Hope he also reviews city communication via the local cable public access channels. For example, Baja cable has had ZERO information posted during previous flooding events. By: -
Posted Date: 05/15/2012 Welcome, Andy!! I predict that you will be a positive and productive addition to this community. By: Betty Haines