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Newly elected Methuen Mayor Neil Perry will take office on January 6th.
He was elected last month with 71% of the vote, a clear mandate for change. Perry holds the Methuen Mayor’s Report on The Paying Attention! Podcast on the first Tuesday of each month.
The Podcast can be seen on The Valley Patriot Facebook page. It is also podcast on audio on PodBean, iTunes, iHeart radio, and Spreaker.
This is Perry’s second report on Paying Attention! Perry talked about what he has been doing to transition into the mayor’s office and his goals for moving Methuen forward. This interview took place November 5th.
I asked Perry if he has sat down to talk with the Police Superior Officer’s Union representatives, or Police Chief Solomon yet, Perry said, “no”.
“As you know I am still working at Raytheon through December 19th, but I am taking time to do transition events with the city. There’s a million things to do. Next Friday I have a scheduled sit down with the city lawyers to talk about the superior’s contract because, we only know what we’ve seen in the press, we don’t know the full details.”
“So, I’m sitting down with some of the current counselors as well, so I can ascertain everything that has happened. I want to do all of that before I sit down with the superior officers. I want to do what’s right for the city. I said this when I was on the campaign trail and I will keep saying it; I’m not going to make the police the bad guys here. This is not about good guys and bad guys.
These are good guys, we just have a bad contract and we’re going to fix that situation. I’m committed to doing that. Let’s see how it works out, you’ve got to give us a little time. So, the short answer is somewhere after December 13th we will be sitting down with Greg and his team and talk with them. You see, I don’t have any legal standing yet until I am sworn in. Mostly what I want to talk about with you today is how we are working on the transition.”
Tom: The only question I have is one that you won’t answer and that is, who are you going to hire as your chief of staff?
“I’m just not ready to answer that right now. You’d be proud to know that I am doing all of my homework and my background information and making sure I am checking off all the things that I need to check. It’s a two-year term, and that’s not very long, I have to show progress in the first year. I have to make sure that I have people in line that have the vision that I see, and what we’re going to do for Methuen moving forward.”
“It’s not going to be whether or not they are yes-man or yes women. I need people around me that are going to complement the skill sets that I have, but have different perspectives than I have. I’m confident we’re going to do that. I’m on the brink of finishing that up and I’m going to announce it before Christmas. Maybe I will make my announcement at the TMF family dinner for the homeless.”
Since being elected, Neil Perry has volunteered his Wednesday nights to passing out food to the homeless in Lawrence, sponsored by a group called The Movement Family (TMF).
Tom: So, who are you sitting down with?
Perry: “Let me explain the process first and then you can understand. There were really two tracks that we have going. I sent out an actual questionnaire that were sent to every department head in the city to fill out. They are transition questionnaires. This morning we sat with the City Clerk and the recreation department and we went through theirs. So, we sent these to all the department heads and they have all responded. I have them back and now we are scheduled with sit-downs intended to be an informational exchange with each of them. I have questions, and I will ask them about challenges and issues.
“We also use what the mayor provided to us, which is the 2020 budget. As an example; when we sat down with Jack Wilson, the City Clerk. We can go through his section here. I can look and see what his accomplishments were in 2019, and what were his goals for 2020, what is the organization structure of his office?”
“There’s something that we do at Raytheon which is an organization chart which is a functional org chart, a picture of the person in the chart and what their jobs responsibility is, and who they answer to. We look at their budget, we also ask headcount questions. I ask, are there any single points of failure, any risk areas, how do we better promote customer service, things like that.”
“In this case, Jack Wilson walked me through some really good stuff, including the renovation of the customer service center at Searles. It’s going to be set up much more customer friendly. We are also taking a look at the building itself.
We are looking at how are we utilizing the building and what does it need. We are looking at that from the perspective of stepping back and taking an overall look at the building itself, and maximizing the use of it. It is a historic building but probably not designed the way you would design a building today for city government.”
“At one time it was a high school, my mother in fact graduated from there.”
Tom: Are people able to pay their parking tickets, their city taxes, their water bills etc. online?
Perry: “That’s starting to be done, you can pay a lot of those things online but there are still some things that you can’t and we are working on expanding that.”
“One of the biggest emphasis that I have, when I’m meeting with department heads, is process. One of the criticisms of me has been that I’ve never been in city government before. And that’s a fair criticism. But, in a way it is a good thing though, because we are going in with eyes wide open.”
“I also want to bring onto this show some of the people who work for the city, so I’d like to bring in Jack Wilson and maybe the CAFO Maggie Dupree. Every month I’d like to talk about some of the important topics and maybe take questions from the studio audience here. I’d like to be able to be as transparent as I can with the public about what I’m doing and what’s going on.”
“We have four transition committees. We have four committees. We have; one on general government, one for parks and recreation and green space, one on culture and neighborhoods and one on business and economic development.”
“On the four committees we probably have a total of about 45 people assigned. They are not all people who were supporting me in the last election. We were careful to select some people who supported my opponent in the last election.
What we are looking to do is take some of the visions that were part of our campaign platform, get these groups from across Methuen, sit in a room and work on them together.”
“So, I have set up three or four meetings with each of these teams. We are restricting them to 90 minutes to be respectful of people’s time. So, if there are people out there who are Methuen residents and are passionate about the city and are interested in joining one of these committees, they should reach out to me at email@example.com.
“I said it during the campaign that after the election there would be no more Team Perry, and Team Kannan there would only be Team Methuen. I am making sure that any groups that I’m putting together include people who did not support me. I want to show people that it really is all about what’s best for the city. Every decision we make is going to be made with the best interest of the city at heart. We are tasking each team with having a brainstorm activity on the things that are working well and the things that are not working well. After a couple of meetings, we will start to prioritize the things that are not working well and figure out how we can translate those into goals for the city.”
“My intention is to be as transparent as possible with all of this. So, the next time I come on your show in January, I will bring slides or graphs to show the things that people on the Culture and Neighborhoods team are saying. So for people like you in the media these will become a scorecard for people to measure how well we are performing. Are we doing the things that we say we were going to do?”
“Once these teams are finished we will put together our list of priorities and goals for the city, and then go to the city council and get their input on it. Then, I will take all of that accumulation of data and report that out to the public.”
“I may be new to politics, but I’m not new to being a leader. I recognize that this first year is critical for me, and for the people who are working with me in city government We need to show the citizens of Methuen a different way. We need to show them that all the things we talked about during this campaign were not campaign slogans. Transparency and accountability – those are words that mean something to me.”
Mayor Perry’s next appearance on The Paying Attention! Podcast will be Thursday, January 9th at 2pm. ◊