Mayor Don Kyle spent his first week back at his old job getting to know new department heads and employees and reacquainting himself with old ones.
A string of one-on-one and small-group meetings with directors in key departments have helped bring him up to speed on projects and perceived problems ahead.
“The gears in my head are turning so fast that I’m trying to slow it down, and take one issue at a time,” Kyle said last week from his sixth-floor office.
It has been four years since Kyle sat in the mayor’s seat, and since then the personnel at City Hall have changed, along with Decatur’s economic landscape.
“We have more opportunities now, and it’s just a matter of grabbing onto them,” Kyle said.
While managing day-to-day administrative responsibilities in the coming months, Kyle plans to tackle a host of initiatives. Some items on his to-do list include:
Resubmit to the U.S. Justice Department the redistricting plan to implement the city manager referendum.
Kyle said he has drafted a memo to Council President Gary Hammon requesting the City Council consider resubmitting the three-district plan that would establish a council-manager form of government.
Kyle said he reviewed the two letters the Justice Department sent to the city in which federal officials requested more information about the three-district plan.
The city later withdrew the plan and submitted a five-district plan that retained a mayor in its place. That plan was approved by the Justice Department.
Kyle said he believes the Justice Department wanted more information about the petitioners’ “intent” in trying to change from a council-mayor to a council-manager government.
Hammon said Friday he had not heard about or received Kyle’s memo, but he would be willing to put the measure on a council agenda for consideration.
Evaluate operational structure and consider consolidation of certain departments into one administrative division.
The revenue, finance and purchasing departments report directly to the mayor. Kyle has proposed combining those departments — which serve other city departments more so than the general public — with information technology and a human resources department under one senior manager who would report to the mayor.
Kyle believes the reorganization would allow cross-training of employees to cover for one another during absences, foster more cooperation and understanding among departments and create a smoother budgeting process.
“The council would be involved in that, and I would ask their blessing on any big changes,” Kyle said.
Analyze the 2013 budget.
Kyle, a former accountant and bank trust officer, has been “spot checking” certain areas of this year’s budget with finance officials. He said he wants to get an understanding of why certain line items were changed or left unchanged from the fiscal 2012 budget. He’s also reviewing the 2012 budget as finance officials close the books on it and prepare for the annual audit.
Gather top 10 priorities from each department.
Kyle plans to replace Stanford’s Wednesday finance meetings with council members and key directors with smaller, more informal meetings to go over city business. He wants to hear from department heads on their top concerns or upcoming issues and how best to address them.
“I favor more meetings with fewer people than a few meetings with a lot of people,” Kyle said. “I feel they’re more productive, and you can keep it very specific to the issues without straying off course.”
Establish regular communications with council members and directors.
Kyle wants to set up recurring meetings with individual councilmen, possibly breakfast meetings, to “clarify their personal interests” and city issues that they want to address. He plans to do the same with new as well as old department heads.
“I’ve got to establish a new set of relationships,” he said. “There’s a good number of department heads that have been around a while that I know well, but there are new ones I want to talk to and get their ideas on things.”
Pursue expedited permitting process for contractors.
Kyle wants to create a preferred list of “good” contractors and companies who have consistently followed city codes and regulations and expedite the process of approving plans and issuing building permits to them. To do that, the building department will need more training to increase the number of personnel who can review building plans, Kyle said.
“We don’t want to skimp on quality, but we do want to make life easier where we can for those who have always followed the rules.”
Change process of renewing business licenses.
A consolidated administrative division would give the revenue department access to more personnel to help process annual business license renewals in January, Kyle said. But he’s also exploring possible legislative action that would change the annual business renewal deadline in January to a monthly due date, creating a process similar to renewing license plates.
The change would allow the revenue department to spread business license renewals across 12 months instead of the processing all of them one month a year, he said.
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