NEW MADISON — Village of New Madison Mayor Lisa Garland said it is easy for people to blame other people.
“We’re not accomplishing anything by doing that,” she said. “The past is the past – we need to learn from that, move forward and look at how we can do things better.”
Garland started out as a Village of New Madison councilwoman eight years ago, and has spent the last two years as mayor.
“I went into that very blindly,” she said. “I had no idea what it was. I just knew I wanted to be involved in our community and in our town to try and make things better. It has been interesting along the way.”
After six years on council, the position of mayor came open. Since Garland was council president, she was placed into the position of mayor. When it was time for an election, nobody wanted the job of mayor, she said.
“What happens if nobody runs for mayor?” she said. “I thought, ‘I did it for six months – I can do this’. I ran for mayor unopposed, so here we are.”
For a small village, Garland said she is surprised about how much time the position entails. As mayor, Garland is the chief executive of the village. Some of those duties include: supervision of village officers, managing the administration of the village, presiding at council meetings, appointing various officials, seeing the enforcement of all village laws and signing various legal instruments as the village council or state law requires. She especially enjoyed being able to congratulate Tri-Village graduate Clayton Murphy, for earning a bronze medal in the men’s 800 meter run at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. As mayor, it helps to be organized, communicative and to stay level-headed, she said.
“I don’t think people see all of the things behind the scenes,” Garland said. “We are a very small village with the same responsibilities as larger ones. I meet with many different entities, such as engineering firms on projects for grants and the Ohio Department of Transportation. Sometimes I have to leave work to sign documents that are due at the courthouse by a specific time for grant applications. And sometimes people show up at my home with complaints or concerns. It is a lot.”
The most emergent projects the village has been working on, are: W. Washington Street, Duffield Street and N. Main Street projects. It takes money to achieve those improvements. Garland said the financial constraints have been New Madison’s biggest challenge. The Village’s General Fund had a negative $69,000 balance earlier this year, that is now well over $100,000. The State Auditor’s Office is assisting the village through a monitoring program to clean up past audits. The free monitoring began March 1, and will continue for at least two years.
“We are moving in the right direction, trying to plan out three-five years, looking at projects that need completed, and figuring out where those funds are coming from,” she said. “Even if we get grant money, a lot of times those require matching funds, and finding those funds to match to the grants can be very difficult. If we get the grants, after all of the fees are paid, it doesn’t always leave enough for all of the actual project needs.”
In addition to her full-time position as Director of Environmental Services and Linen, at Wayne HealthCare, she is pursuing a degree in Business Management. Juggling all of that, plus a family, Garland said making time to be mayor has been worthwhile. She said she likes being involved in the community and making a difference. She encourages others to do so, by publishing the following statement in the village newsletters: “An involved citizen is an informed citizen.”
“If you are not involved, you don’t know what is going on,” she said. “It is easy to sit back and criticize what is going on. If council makes a decision that you disagree with, but you don’t go to a meeting to give your input or ideas or thoughts, you really can’t complain about what is going on. You need to be involved. When people attend the meetings, they often come full circle about the way they feel about council. Everyone has an opportunity to speak. I always feel it is important to give the public their opportunity to speak first.”
There is currently an open seat on council. Anyone can submit a letter of interest to the council for that position.
“We will most definitely welcome someone,” she said. “It is very rewarding to take care of an issue or a concern. Even though we do get beat up on a lot, there are people who thank us for getting this done. Just being a part of the solution is my biggest reward. I love people and enjoy the opportunity to work with so many of them.”
EDS NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing series titled “Elected Officials” that will address the role of those officials in Darke County.
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