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Posing for a photo at the March 16 Watkins Glen Village Board meeting were, from left: trustee Tony Fraboni, trustee Paul Clifford, trustee and Deputy Mayor Scott Gibson, retiring Village Justice Nick Dugo, Mayor Mark Swinnerton and trustee Kevin Smith.
accomplished a lot
Mark Swinnerton is completing a four-year term as mayor of Watkins Glen, an experience he has found rewarding. His deputy mayor, Scott Gibson, is seeking the mayor's seat in the March 18 village election, while Swinnerton runs for a trustee position. In a mayoral farewell address at the Village Board meeting on Monday, March 16, Swinnerton expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve as mayor, and pride in the accomplishments of his board. His remarks follow.
Let me start by saying that I have really loved being mayor of Watkins Glen. It's a great job, in a great Village, working with great people. It’s been an honor to sit at this table with all these extremely talented people. We have accomplished a lot over the last 4 years.
I want to first say that I am incredibly appreciative of all the hard work and great attitude of Village employees. It has made my time as mayor a real pleasure. When I first took office in 2011, I knew that I was going to have the opportunity to work with good people. I was wrong. Working at the Village has afforded me the opportunity to work with great people who care so much for our community. Each of you has set the bar high, consistently doing more with less, not losing sight of the vision we set for an even better Village. I'm proud to have had the opportunity to work with each of you, and proud of the things we have been able to do together.
It's been four years since I was sworn into office. I could not have told you at that time exactly what this administration would accomplish from our list of goals. However, once the barriers were removed and relationships built, I’m proud to say that we’ve accomplished everything we set out to do and then some. Now I’m not saying it’s been rainbows and unicorns, but as I have said in the past, there is nothing wrong with good arguments. They should just be about stuff that matters.
We don't really get the opportunity to judge our own performance. Of course there is no shortage of others willing to do that. But I am so proud of all of us -- village employees, the press, the public, and I want to also emphasize the Village Board. We have worked hard at government and it has been very rewarding. There is a new sense of pride in our Village and confidence in our great potential.
I've heard it said during campaigns before that "the road to victory is long, but the road to good government is even longer." I think that's probably pretty true. But the road to good government is a lot shorter when we do things the right way -- remaining committed to cooperation, even when we've disagreed. I think we've done that here, and it has worked.
The way we govern matters. It matters a lot and it has taken all of us, both inside and outside of government, supporters and critics, to help create a culture of governing that works. As I look back there are four points that keep coming back to me.
(1) We have learned as a community that good government, government that works, is open and collaborative. Time and again we have seen that taking the time to hold meetings, listening to people’s concerns, and listening to suggestions while explaining why we sometimes might go in another direction, leads to better outcomes.
Those of us in a position to govern are there because people have placed a tremendous amount of trust in us. They put us there to get it right for the community, not for ourselves. In other words, it is more important that we have gotten to the "right answer" than to "our" answer -- the answer we started with.
(2) Good government is for the long term. Our decisions have consequences that reach well into the future. A friend told me when I first came into office: "Be careful. The decisions you make will be around for a long time." He was right. We have to make sure future mayors and future boards do not find themselves bound by poor decisions made just to get something off of their plates or for short-term advantage. Thinking only in terms of the next quarter's stock price has led a lot of companies to eventual failure. There are real lessons for us in government.
(3) We have all stayed well focused on the fact that we are constrained by financial realities. Expenditures and revenues must match up and we often have to say "no" to great projects or programs.
(4) Most importantly, we have never forgotten that citizens are our customers. They pay for government and our services have to be responsive, fair and, above all, effective.
We still have challenges to face. And I am optimistic that we are up to the task. Three stand out.
(1) We have to continue to use great discipline with our budgeting. We live in a competitive environment. Families choose where they live and businesses choose where to locate. Our goal is to make Watkins Glen America's greatest Village to live, work, play, and raise a family. To do this we have to be financially strong with a solid infrastructure. We must provide excellent Village services.
(2) We must keep our eye on the prize in developing the core of the Village. Working in tandem with private developers, we have had great success downtown. The core of the Village provides us with great opportunity to use existing infrastructure to provide great living and working space. We are making great progress, with the Water Works project completed to the North, our four-star hotel on the waterfront, and the growing success of Downtown.
Our efforts on the waterfront must continue. It has been the most visible casualty of poor planning, but it is poised for greatness. The recently approved Wastwater Treatment Plant project demonstrates the possibilities of our public-private approach. Watkins Glen is primed for success, from the waterfront to beyond.
(3) Finally, one of the greatest challenges we face is to keep from pitting one area against another and one group against another. If we look at success as a zero-sum game, where one's gain is only at another's loss, we all eventually lose. I think we've really worked to maintain a delicate balance, recognizing the importance of individual needs, while not ever losing sight of the greater good. I am hopeful that will continue, and I believe that it will.
Together we have all grown as a community. We have not only learned to agree and work to get some really great things done; we have also learned to disagree in civil and constructive ways. Both are critical in developing a culture that works. We must never lose sight of that.
In the end, doing government the right way -- not just my way or our way -- has produced some wonderful results.
I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to every one -- employees, members of the Board, and the citizens of Watkins Glen for making this experience incredibly rewarding. Being mayor really is the best job I've ever had.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my beautiful wife Margaret, and my children Kathleen, Sarah and Benjamin for all the times I missed dinner. Thank you for understanding. I hope I’ve demonstrated how important community service is and I hope you follow my example as I have followed my father's, and my grandfather's. It is truly a very rewarding endeavor.
With the support of the citizens of Watkins in the upcoming election, my sincere hope is I get to continue on the Board of Trustees, and that our Deputy Mayor Scott Gibson is given the opportunity to finish everything we have started and to lead this village to new heights.
Regardless of what happens on Wednesday, the Village will always be my home and I will continue to serve this wonderful community in any way I can.
Thank you and I hope to have your continued support.
Photo in text: Mayor Mark Swinnerton, foreground, and Deputy Mayor Scott Gibson at Watkins Glen Village Board meeting on Monday, March 16, 2015.
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