Mayor discusses growth, strength of town departments

The Oakland News recently sat down with Mayor Chris Goodman to discuss the state of the town and plans for the future. This is the second half of the interview.

• (ON) What kind of growth can Oakland expect in the near future? Have you seen any studies?

I am finding some studies that were done by different organizations that the previous administration was connected with.
With the TN-385/I-269 corridor and what is happening in Shelby County, they are expecting around 20-to-30-percent growth over the next two years.

• (ON) That is significant.

It really is. We are doing a lot of things. The effort that the Chamber is making with the marketing campaign that started a couple of months ago. They are seeing drastic increases on their website. People are looking at relocation packages and the Chamber is getting phone calls. So, it is coming. People are interested. With Oakland’s low property tax rate, interest increases more as the counties around us continue to raise their taxes.

n (ON) What is the likelihood that Oakland will have to raise property taxes in the near future?

I think we are going to have to address any and all revenue streams.

Oakland's Director of Parks and Recreation Neal Halvorson and Mayor Chris Goodman plant a tree on "Earth Day" Tree supplied by Digger O'Dell.

Oakland Director of Parks and Recreation Neal Halvorson and Mayor Chris Goodman plant an oak tree near Town Hall on Earth Day.

•  (ON) Obviously one of your strengths is handling finances. What are some of your other strengths that will benefit the town?

I am learning a lot. It is different than a typical business. I bring a strong operational management background with me and am really just looking to steady the staff.
We have a great staff that works for the town. They have some fears and concerns. Really, calming them and steadying the water is what I’ve been focused on.
From there, I want to make sure that they remain here and remain strong.
My other strength is the ability to bring the community together, to not be afraid to roll up my sleeves. Whether it is picking up trash or volunteering at the Fayette Cares Plant Sale, not just as a mayor smiling and waving, but doing the hard work.
I’m not afraid to get involved. I want to work where the citizens see me so they are not afraid to join in.

• (ON) Do you get involved with the minutia of the different departments?

I am understanding what each one does, but I have department heads who handle that and I really don’t want to interfere with what they do.
I do communicate with them regularly and make sure that we have an open communication. If there are decisions that need to made, I will make them. But they are experts at what they do. The last thing I’d want to do is distract them from what they’ve been trained to do.
All of our department heads have decades of experience. I let them do what they do best and make sure they have the support and structure they need to do their jobs.
The challenge right now is to get some positive press for Oakland. What the citizens have been through, it has been very trying and they are hungry to see and hear some good stuff.
One thing I would like people to know is just how little crime there is here in Oakland. It is not by chance. It is all around us. But it is not here for a reason.
It is because we do have a presence. I want people to see the human side of all of our departments.
We want to keep Oakland looking ahead.
There are a lot of things that the citizens would like to see done and the only way we can do those things is if we start coming together. I want to clean up the past and bring everyone together for the future.

• (ON) What is your opinion of the Fayette County School System?

It is a continuing saga, unfortunately. A number of teachers were recently laid off because of some budget shortcomings that were created by the current administration, not the past.
I think that it is important for the citizens to know that this isn’t leftover from the last school administration. This is the current administration that has created this shortcoming.
We have to do something. Both of my children are in Fayette County public schools. I am concerned as a parent and as a mayor.
The more negative attention we get, the harder it is to grow. People don’t want to move into a community that doesn’t have a good school system.
There are some things that the town of Oakland plans on doing to highlight our teachers. We only hear about the negative things in Fayette County Schools. We never hear about the positives.
Oakland is going to get very involved in what is going on with the school board. We want the school board to focus on the right things. Unfortunately we are moving toward a system that has a private school for one level and county school for all the others who cant go to that. I personally won’t accept that.
The previous administration talked a lot about charter schools. To me that is low on the list. We need to worry about fixing the county schools. If Oakland pulls out of the county school system, it hurts the kids outside of Oakland. The kids throughout the county deserve better.

• (ON) Have you spoken with (former mayor) Scott Ferguson since his resignation?

I have not. We spoke at the last special called meeting that was held. We spoke twice after that because some of the motions I made had to be followed up.
When he decided to resign, he gave instructions for the staff to call me once he left the building. I haven’t heard anything from him since, which is OK. He has a lot that he is dealing with.
I didn’t know him personally. During the election process, I came by and let him know who I was and the reason I was running and that I hoped to work with him.
After the election, I told him more than once that I wanted to work with him. Even as things started to crumble I told him, “let me help you. I didn’t do this to become mayor.”
Unfortunately he was just at that place where he didn’t feel he could trust me or didn’t want the help.
He has not called or been up here.
He has cut the ties and gone. Which is not a bad thing.