- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
(Editor’s Note: Part 2 of a series — Paris city manager John Godwin discusses the challenge given him by the council to cut city taxes while at the same time significantly increasing city services. He concedes: ‘It will be difficult.’)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Paris city manager John Godwin nodded and took notes last week when council members gave him a “to do” list that includes spending at least $250,000 each on:
Replacing the city’s crumbling infrastructure,
Building new streets,
Tearing down dilapidated structures, and
Cleaning up the city.
All while drastically reducing the $700,000 a year that the city budgets for overtime.
And oh, yes – mayor AJ Hashmi also asked the manager to come up with a comprehensive strategic plan in the next 12 months and to cut taxes by 1 percent each of the next five years.
“I don’t know if that’s going to be possible. It will be difficult,” Godwin said in a midweek interview. “Cutting taxes is always a good goal, but to do it for five years in a row is perhaps asking too much. We’re certainly going to try.”
“May I make a recommendation?” a reporter asked Godwin in mid-week.
“Sure,” Godwin said.
“See if you can borrow Doug Wehrman’s shirt that he wore to the PEDC meeting on Tuesday.
“Superman?” Godwin asked. “Hahahaha.”
The council told Godwin that more people are needed in code enforcement, and that drainage problems need to be taken care of right away.
“I’ve got a lot of things I’m looking at. I’ve got a semi-action plan — a list of about 50 things I want to get done by September 30th, the end of the fiscal year,” Godwin said.
“I don’t believe I was hired to do the status quo. That may mean some reorganization. That may mean some staff changes. Don’t be surprised at anything I may do because I’m all crazy when it comes to that sort of thing.”
He added: “Like I say, I’ve already got my 50 things. I don’t know if there’s a top five. I mean, they’re not ranked in any order.”
“I’ve got about a six-page list of notes. I kind of consolidated all my notes from the past few weeks yesterday, and then from there I am narrowing it down to things I want to get this summer, right of way,” he said.
“Some of it has to do with some changes that will probably happen in conjunction with the new budget year — maybe some reorganization, maybe some staff changes — not running people off but just doing thins differently. Doing the agenda differently. Some of it’s pretty simple stuff, but just getting things going.”
Some of them, he said, are small things like cutting down a dead tree, and some of them are bigger things like reorganizing department, trying to improve communications — those kind of things.
“But no, it wasn’t hard to get to 50 things. Actually, it was hard to keep it that short of a list, but some of the things will take an hour and a half and some will take six months, maybe. I’m just trying to get myself focused, because the first few weeks you’re here, you talk to so many people, you see so many things, you want to learn about so many things. I think one of the main things is to at least begin to create a mindset in employees that their purpose of being here is to serve people,” Godwin said.
He’s assuming there are things he can do to increase productivity.
“That’s usually the case. There’s not many perfect organizations in government, or in the private sector either for that matter,” he said.
“It’s going to take me a while to know, can you get rid of two people, or six people, or no people. Because at the very same meeting with the council, we were talking about doing more in a lot of areas rather than less. We need more people out mowing grass, for example. So it’s a challenge.”
In a 90-minute interview, Godwin frequently compared managing to coaching.
His father, Fred Godwin, was a longtime high school coach at Harleton and Marshall, and his brother, Mark Godwin, has been coaching for more than 30 years and is now at Hallsville.
Before going into city management, John Godwin was a coach for four years, right out of college. He spent two years each at Arp and Whitehouse as a history teacher and offensive line coach.
“Like coaching, managing is about developing a team, finding out who contributes best, where to put them in the right position so they can contribute to the team the most — holding people accountable, giving people second chances,” Godwin said.
“When the quarterback has a bad game, you don’t bench him. Now, if he has two or three bad games you might bench him. In city government, if a department isn’t performing, there’s a responsibility on the department head to raise the level,” Godwin said.
“I’ll put pressure on them to do that, or, you know, find somebody that can. It’s not fun, but it’s part of the deal.”
Carrying the football analogy further, Godwin said: “There are some employees you have to yell at to make him perform, and the next guy, if I yell at him he’s going to quit on me.”
He added: “You’ve got to know which ones are which, and that’s why I like to be out there and know my people. And I do consider them my people. I consider them like a family, and I’m the dad that sometimes has to discipline,” he said.
“Hopefully you can reward them and pat them on the back more often than not. That’s a better motivator for most people. But you’ve got to know them and know what they need, so you can help them become the best that they can be. You know, what can I do to get these guys to perform and to succeed?”
His first-ever city job was patching pot holes for the City of Marshall as a 21-year-old in 1980.
“I still remember that. I was out at the (public works) shop this morning. , I met a supervisor out there. I told him, ‘Now you’re going to be my favorite department, because my first-ever city job was patching pot holes for $2.75 an hour, doing what you guys do.’
“Those guys get forgotten a lot of time, you know, the people that work in public works, or the guy that’s standing in that six feet hole in the water, like when we had that big water break the other day. It was a two or three day beating for those jobs. I’ve done stuff like that before, so they need to be appreciated, They’re important and they need to know they’re important.”
Godwin said he hopes, with time, that young people look at a job with the City of Paris as a good option.
“I hope over time — and I don’t know if take six months or two years — that people take pride in saying ‘I work for the City of Paris, and that it’s a good thing that they tell people, and they’re happy and they recommend it to their friends and relatives,” he said.
“Instead of, you know, ‘Well, I guess I could work for the city.’ I don’t know if that’s the way it is now, but if it is we need to change it. You know, ‘I think I want to go be a police officer, or I want to work in public works, or I want to be an accountant‘ or whatever it is, for the City of Paris.”
send comments about this article to