Mayor Tim Grayson on leadership and the future of Concord

It’s another evening in paradise for the Mayor of Concord Mayor Tim Grayson. While letting others vent their views while presentations are being made to the Downtown Ad Hoc Steering Committee by consultants, city staff, members of the committee, and the audience, he quietly takes notes but has little to say even though it is his prerogative as Mayor to lead the discussion.

tim-grayson-state-of-city-concord-2014Towards the end of the meeting Grayson quietly brings up several cogent points that helps build consensus within a diverse group who are trying plan the face of Concord’s downtown area for the next thirty years. Much like a surgeon who operates unbeknownst to his patients, he provides quiet leadership with little fan-fair.

Unlike other members of the City Council, Grayson is much more reserved than his colleagues. As he appears to analyze each issue independently; it seems to be more difficult to predict what his position might be on any subject compared to others sitting on the Council. While critics might consider Grayson to be aloof, most City Hall insiders respect him as a thoughtful public official who is trying to do the right thing.

With the start of 2014 Tim Grayson is serving as Mayor for a two year term. This has placed him in a unique position of being the voice of the community. Recently, he sat down with Halfway to Concord to offer his views and perspective of holding this important position.

How does it feel to be Mayor of Concord? Has it settled in yet?

It’s starting to settle in. At first it was a bit euphoric. However, I am humbled to serve, and I’m enjoying being mayor of Concord.

Very little is known about your background. Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana.

 What is your education?

I graduated from a top rated high school in Indiana, and went on to attend Indiana University for a short time before transferring to Christian Life College in Stockton, California.

I understand that you have worked as a contractor. How has being involved with private enterprise helped you to serve on the City Council?

I have a wide range of experience in business. At one point I was one of the youngest managers in JC Penny’s, and served in that capacity for several years. Later I moved on into the construction business. This experience has been very helpful in my work for the City.

What has been your greatest revelation from serving on the City Council?

Concord Mayor Tim Grayson on the difference between opposition and contention

Along with the fact that it takes a whole lot of people working to deliver the quality of life people expect, I have learned there is a difference from being the voice of opposition versus being the voice of contention. The voice of opposition is to be appreciated, because, with it comes purpose and reason that develops ideas and makes them more complete and well-rounded. Whereas, a voice of contention is simply a voice that will always be the opposite of what you mean, with no intention for a solution or compromise; it’s difficult to produce successful results in that kind of environment.

tim-grayson-concord-mayor-2014

Why did you run for public office in the first place?

I was already involved civically as a Chaplain for the Concord Police department.

What did that job entail?

In that capacity my number one priority is to support the police officers. The second priority is to help and assist people in crisis. I support police officers while making death notifications, making myself available as a calming presence for people involved in tragic accidents, or those whose live are impacted by critical incidents. That’s why I’m referred to as a Critical Response Chaplain.

So you are still doing that?

Yes, I am.

With your close relationship with the Concord Police Officers Association (POA) and the support they have given you in the past, do you feel to be under a lot of pressure negotiating their contract next year?

Allow me to clarify that my closeness is with Concord Police Department, which is different than the Police Officers Association. My loyalty and service is to the entire department. The Association has supported me and other candidates in the past, but there is no obligation to favor them over others in my capacity as Mayor.

So you are wearing many hats for the City while running a business. How do you balance these tasks?

Grayson Construction is primarily dormant while serving as the mayor. However, I still work with the police department and pastor of a local church. Though these activities definitely keep me busy, I don’t have to be in control of everything; it’s about empowering people to get the job done.

Thus far on the City Council, observers have noticed that you have tended to hold back opinions on issues at public meetings until you have given some thought to the matter. Is this a fair appraisal?

Yes. I believe so. I go into meetings having educated myself on the subject. I lean heavily on staff reports to give me the necessary information. Furthermore, I appreciate the voices of opposition that are more than just opinions, but perspectives that come with reason and purpose. I believe best practice is to take all sides and facts into consideration, then move forward with an opinion.

Has serving as the chaplain to the Police Department impacted the way you have approached your job on the Council and being mayor?

I am proud to say it is a very clear line from where I serve a chaplain versus Mayor. Several call outs have occurred since I have become Mayor. When arriving on the scene I am referred to as Chaplain Grayson, not Mayor. They always see me as Chaplain; not just because I am wearing a chaplain uniform, but because their crisis demands the role of a chaplain.

How is that?

It is understood in the corridors of the police department that I am referred to as chaplain, not mayor. My purpose to serve as the best chaplain I can be when supporting officers or reaching out to victims. There is a time and place for everything. If anything, being chaplain has enhanced my experience as a mayor. I witness real-life events, and that brings everything into perspective!

Are you concerned one day that your religious views will be a hindrance in your political career

Absolutely not. I don’t consider who and what I am to be a hindrance at all. I am a firm believer that we are all people and equal, and all have an equal will and equal choice. We are to respect each other for the right to live life the way each has chosen. As long as I live up to what I believe, love people and respect for each and every person, I will definitely make a positive impact on my community.

tim-grayson-mayor

Following the 2010 election  Dan Helix, Ron Leone and yourself left the Republican Party. They registered as independents, and you became a Democrat. Can you explain the reasons for making this choice?

I was raised in a family that supported the Democratic Party. As a young adult entering college I chose to be involved with the Republican Party. I saw a struggling Democratic Party in the 70’s and the Democratic Party in Indiana was not as organized as in the recent past. For the past couple of decades I struggled over inconsistencies within the Republican Party. Getting directly involved in politics definitely forced me to deal with my political associations. During the election of 2010 the disarray of the Republican Party and inconsistencies could no longer be ignored.

Is this what helped make your choice of changing parties?

That’s why I didn’t go as an independent and chose to go Democrat. As a pastor my heartbeat is people, and my passions are social issues and social programs. I was convinced I was going to be much more effective in the realm of social programs and helping people via the Democratic Party rather than being by myself as an independent.

Can you give me a few examples of that?

Absolutely, as Democrats, we support social programs and are not afraid to deal with social issues that directly impact the well being of women, minorities, and youth. That’s what drew me register as a Democrat so that I could be more influential in these areas.

So it wasn’t political expediency as many thought for you to become a Democrat

I understand how some might perceive my motives as suspect. If that causes dislike toward me within the Democratic Party, then my only answer to that is simple they don’t know me.

In your capacity as Mayor of Concord, do you see yourself as Republican, Democrat or Independent?

That’s what is delightful about the City Council; it is non-partisan. We are a group of five people who work together and I have not, to this date, had to make any decision based upon party affiliation.

To change the subject, have you thought about running for public office other than being on the City Council and the Mayor of Concord?

My political career started by a seat on the council opening up and the opportunity came to me. When it did, I chose to accept the challenge of that opportunity. I love opportunity when it comes because that creates the adventure in life. My answer is that, at this time, my desire is to be the best mayor for Concord I can possibly be. If more opportunities come my way by accomplishing that, then consideration will be given at that time.

Have you set up any personal goals and objectives as mayor of concord you want to achieve?

I want to foster an environment in jobs and housing where people have an opportunity to live where they work. Concord should be a place of opportunity with a job base that can support those desiring to own a home in Concord.

Concord Mayor Tim Grayson on the future of Concord

Can your elaborate on the job base

We need to be very proactive in attracting business and creating a balanced job base that brings in the type of salaries where households can grow from renting to ownership, if so desired. That’s a fine balance.

So you would rather have service and manufacturing jobs that don’t have blue lights flashing like K-MART?

Minimum wage jobs have a role to play in the community. However, what they don’t do is provide a head of household income. We need a balance where there are jobs for teenagers entering into the work force. In addition, we need sustainable jobs for those who have been in the workforce for quite awhile and need an income to support a family and have the opportunity for home ownership.

Do you see these jobs occurring in the development of the Concord Naval Weapons Station or elsewhere?

I think the Concord Naval Weapons Station area will be a good source for job development, but it is not limited solely to the base. The Monument Corridor, Downtown Concord, and the Concord Naval Weapons Station really need to have a strong focus on balanced job development. Bringing these three ingredients together can take Concord from being a dot on the map to being a star on the globe.

Having been appointed to a two year terms as mayor, will this allow you to finish projects that take over a year to complete.

Absolutely, I have spoken to several other former mayors of Concord who have been supportive of the two year term.  All of them had a similar response that having a second year would have made them more formidable as a mayor.

With this opportunity are you looking forward to serving on regional government posts that you might not have done as a one year mayor?

I already serve on regional and statewide committees, but as a second year Mayor, it gives me leadership opportunities which I hope will help Concord immensely.

Do you have any thoughts in bringing down unfunded mandates for the pensions and retired medical benefits for city workers?

I am happy to say that it is not only me, but my colleagues as a whole, who have unanimously expressed great concern for the unfunded liabilities in retirement and health benefits. During one of our council strategic planning sessions we requested that the staff come up with all options available for dealing with unfunded liabilities. I’m excited to say that council will develop strong policies in order to address some of these unfunded liabilities.

Are there any areas of public spending that you would like to see reduced or expanded by the City?

I am always looking for areas we can be more efficient and effective. It is imperative that we have adequate reserves and spend tax payers dollars smarter. There are specific areas that I am having staff look at and bring to policy committees.

The city Manager and others on the City Council have complained about the State short-changing Concord in returning gas and property tax revenues back to run the city. Do you see this as a problem?

Anytime the City is short changed, no matter what the agency is, it’s a problem for the residents of Concord. We can sit and lament over the problem or we can exercise leadership and find resolve and a solution to the problem.

How does measure Q figure into this?

The state has definitely strained its relationship with local government by undermining local authority. Stae government in Sacramento balanced its budget on the backs of local government, leaving Concord and other cities in disparity, financially. Thanks to the voters for passing Measure Q. Measure Q not only softened the blow, it kept core services from being completely decimated!

There is talk about extending Measure Q at the present rate or possibly at a reduced level.

Some say we have a sunset therefore we must let it die, but just because the sun sets, doesn’t mean it doesn’t rise again. I believe my mission as an office holder is to make sure the people reserve their power and right through their vote. To me this is very simple. Do nothing, or vote no and Measure Q is finished in March of 2016. On the other hand, consider the stewardship of the city, reports delivered by the Measure Q Committee, then decide to vote for extending Measure Q in order to address some for important infrastructure needs. I believe the people need to make that choice.

Many local residents are concerned about the future of the Concord Pavilion. With the contract signed with Live Nation, will it be possible for the facility to remain economically viable and still meet community needs?

I am excited and overjoyed at the deal the city has negotiated with Live Nation. Live Nation is initially putting in $3.7 million to upgrade the Pavilion and increasing the number and quality of the concerts.

What is involved with this?

Everything from the front gate of the Parking lot to backstage…

Because of dwindling attendance has the option of reducing capacity for some shows been discussed?

Obviously, it is market driven. What is so exciting are the plans they (Live Nation) have to make sure bands that draw larger crowds are booked. Furthermore, Concord residents will have first choice to purchase tickets.  With Live Nation paying for upgrades, it will be in their best interests to book top acts.

Are there any other perks in the Live Nation deal?

One element that was included in the contract was a provision that would allow opportunities for education. It would be awesome for Concord if Live Nation and education hgroups could partner to create opportunities for students to participate in theatrical productions.

Turning to the development of the Downtown area; if money was not an object, what improvements would you like to make there?

You mean I have a blank check? Wow! I would put a hotel/Convention Center adjacent to BART which would be supported by a performing arts center that brings culture into our downtown.

Should greater concern be placed on placing new residents near Todos Santos or making the place accessible and serviceable to those who already reside in Concord?

I believe we need to recognize that there are different demographics rising in our city other than what we have been traditionally used to. With that said, focusing on Downtown BART and the development of a certain type of housing could be beneficial to one demographic without compromising the accessibility to downtown for those who reside in traditional single family homes.

As urban renewal is so controversial, would you consider asking voters through the ballot box to express their views of which developments they prefer to be built in the downtown area?

We already have a good set of governance principles in place that adequately serves as a tool for shaping and molding development policy. Using the ballot box, though at times it would seem to be good, would probably become more of hindrance than a productive process.

CONCORD MAYOR TIM GRAYSON STATE OF THE CITY PRESENTATION-2014

*some photos courtesy claycord.com and ConcordCA Uncensored.

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