Rebecca Casper thought that her city council meetings were “conventional” and that we wouldn’t have a lot to talk about. I’m happy to report: we had a LOT to talk about. At the end, she shared a candid reflection about how her first two years as mayor affected her friendship with another councilwoman. I cannot recommend it highly enough–go listen.
Q: When it comes to running the council meetings, which of the following best describes your style?
A. Iron-fisted tyrant
B. Lead-fisted tyrant
C. Bronze-fisted tyrant
A: [Laughs] I think it depends on who you’re talking to. I’m sure I’ll have an opponent in the election who will tell you that I am lead or iron!
Q: I consider you a very active mayor–and I don’t mean you’re running marathons. I mean that you explain very thoroughly for city council novices what is happening in the meeting. Why do you do that?
A: I attended my share of meetings as a candidate, watching and observing. It did sometimes seem as though they were performing steps to a dance I didn’t quite understand. So I wanted to make sure that when I had that opportunity to lead, I would make it clear to the public what was happening in their meeting. Because it really is their meeting, not ours.
Q: What procedures did you change when you became mayor?
A: Uh, not that I want to open up a can of worms…but the thing that has been the most procedurally difficult for everybody is the agenda-setting process. It can be quite the “power move” in some people’s minds. I don’t see it that way. I’ve had a couple council members who would like to just be able to order up a discussion. I’ve had a rule of thumb: either a [department] director has to request the agenda item or the council president does.
A: If a council member wants to talk about something, the president can be the one who can tell that council member, “you know what? That’s a crazy idea.” Or “that’s a great idea.” Or “that’s kind of an interesting idea. Have you done the research?” And that council president can mentor the council member. I’ve had that little screening process and it hasn’t sat well with a couple council members.
Q: In your absence, does Council President Tom Hally do anything differently when presiding that you wish you did?
A: I think there’s plenty of cringe-worthiness no matter who’s running the meeting. I’m a little more rigid. Councilman Hally is a little more laid-back. I’m sure people appreciate that from time to time. Having a bossy mom figure all the time can’t be fun, and so–
Q: Is that how you see yourself?
A: That’s how I hear myself when I go back and listen. Especially as you’re playing all these clips now. I’m kind of uncomfortable!
Q: Oh, I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable! I have to listen to my voice all the time for this and there are things I can’t stand and that I do work to fix. What is a similar tic of yours?
A: I would love to be able to be a little more lean with my language. Normally, I fill the awkward pause with blather. Gotta work on that.
Follow Mayor Rebecca Casper on Twitter: @CasperForMayor