Off Landslide Election, Mayor Says He'll Become 'Stronger Leader'
November 11, 2011
After his landslide victory Tuesday, Mayor Pedro Segarra put the responsibility for the city squarely on his shoulders.
"I will become a much stronger leader," he said Thursday, between meetings at his city hall office. "I'm not going to have any patience for mediocrity."
Segarra was elected to his first four-year term in office after being appointed to the post in 2010.. He said much of the last year was spent dealing with problems left behind by his predecessor, Eddie Perez, who resigned after his conviction on corruption charges.
"In the beginning, it was just responding to all the crises that were here," Segarra said.
"Now I'm not completing anyone else's term. I'm not trying to solve someone else's problems. I don't have to depend on working with folks that are not aligned with my mission and vision."
Segarra is in the process of filling several prominent city positions, including the police chief, economic development director and several seats on the board of education. He hinted that there will be several other key staffing changes.
Segarra drew criticism during his first year for being long on ideas, but short on results. Some local politicians and city residents, while praising his strides in restoring trust to city government, said Segarra needed to take more bold steps to alleviate crime and blight.
The mayor said Thursday that he has gained a better understanding about how to do his job.
"I looked at the previous mayor and how he really relied on some of his subordinates to get the job done," Segarra recalled. "Being in the seat, I realized that the action really has to flow from the mayor.
"You really have to be the decisive one."
Among his first priorities in January is addressing unemployment and the lack of support for small businesses in Hartford. Segarra said he plans to hire an economic development director who'll help with issues facing small businesses.
He said he's also thinking about the five people he'll appoint to the city's board of education.
Candidates should have "the capacity to generate good education policy and education reform," Segarra said. He has already received resumes for the positions, he said, but likely won't start interviewing people until December.
The mayor is also searching for a new police chief. He said he's looking to hire a recruiting firm to help in the process. The deadline for interested firms to apply is Nov. 21. Current Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts announced in September that he would retire at the end of the year.
Segarra said he hopes to have a closer relationship with the new chief. Once he fills the position, he said, he'll advocate for more community policing and new technology, including additional ShotSpotter sensors to track gunshots, surveillance systems and software to analyze crime statistics.
Staffing changes may also occur at city hall, where Segarra said he is reviewing all of the departments.
"I have to make a determination that each and every person is in line with the goals I've set up," he said. "I've made some changes already, but I'll have to make more." He declined to elaborate on the possible staffing changes.
David MacDonald, who serves as school board chairman and was recently elected to the city council, said the tax rate and its burden on small businesses should remain a top concern for the mayor.
"The budget is finally getting under control, but we need to find a way to continue to reduce taxes over the next few years," he said. "We're going to have to find better ways provide city services without increasing the budget. It's going to take some creativity and innovation."
Councilman Alexander Aponte, who was elected this week to his first full term on the panel, said Segarra should focus on attracting new retail stores, especially downtown.
"Even if they're small mom-and-pop operations, if you get 20 new businesses into that area," he said, "that could mean 120 new jobs."
R. Nelson "Oz" Griebel, CEO of MetroHartford Alliance, said the mayor has done a good job focusing on issues that are important to the business community, and he hopes it'll stay that way.
"When you come in mid-term and you inherit all the overhanging emotion associated with Mayor Perez's resignation — I think you have to give the mayor tremendous credit for navigating a challenging time," Griebel said. "As he's stayed in office, he's shaped his agenda and refined it. I think you're beginning to see a much crisper alignment and prioritization of what he wants to do."
Segarra said he felt held back during the last year because he wasn't sure he had the support he needed from the community. But winning this week's election by a wide margin has changed things.
"A lot of times I got a good, strong reaction to do something and I held myself back. I felt like this temporary sort of mayor," he said. "Now I feel like I got a push to do some of the things that need to be done."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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