Editor's note: Patch reached out to Canton City Councilman Bill Bryan as he prepares to transition back into private life. Bryan, who was first elected in 2009, decided not to seek a second term on the council for the November city elections.
1. What are your plans once you officially roll off the council?
We really enjoy Florida during the winter so we hope to take a trip there next month. My mom has reached the point where she needs almost continual care, so I will be able to spend more time helping take care of her.
2. During your tenure, what do you think were the city's biggest accomplishments?
Kristal, your question asks about the city's accomplishments and not the council's which is very appropriate because the city is what is important; not the council. Without the city and it's people, the council is nothing. All the good things that have happened over the past five years would not have been possible without the many volunteers and employees working together for the common good.First and foremost was getting the city back onto relatively solid financial footing. It was only a few months after my taking office that the CFO (chief financial officer) presented the news that we would not be able to make payroll within six months unless drastic and immediate action was taken. The city was financially broke. One of the low points in Canton's history and the worst day of my life was the day the council had to lay off 22 city employees — 20 percent of our workforce — so that we would be able to remain solvent. Some others: reducing the debt from $63 million to $49 million; completing the (Hickory Log Creek) Reservoir and boat launch instead of giving it away; improving the fire department instead of giving it away; the fire department attaining Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating of 4 which places Canton's Fire Department in the top 10% of all fire departments in the country; building the new Etowah River Park which will include walking trails, a river bridge, plenty of parking, grassy and wooded play areas, a boat launch, restrooms, covered amphitheater; repairing the (Fairways of Canton) golf course and getting it on solid financial footing; reopening the downtown Canton Theater and getting it on solid financial footing; creating the Canton Office of Economic Development to facilitate and encourage business growth; installing the Code Red Emergency Notification system which is free to all citizens; hiring a professionally trained and experienced city manager; hiring professionally trained and experienced department heads including police chief, CFO, city clerk; rejuvenating the Main Street Program with the hiring of a dynamic new director; and several downtown streetscapes projects, including the beautiful entrance sign on Waleska Street.
There are many more positive accomplishments that have taken place in the past five years and I apologize to those people who I failed to recognize here. It is worth noting that everything here was accomplished without an increase in property taxes and the new council will be starting out with a $600,000 to $1 million surplus.
3. Was there anything you wanted to see the city achieve that did not happen?
My biggest regret is that we did not solve the problem we inherited of uncompleted streets and substandard streets caused by irresponsible residential growth and aggravated by developers going broke. This is a complex problem that we have been gradually working down but it simply is too big, too costly and too complicated to fix quickly.4. Was there anything you personally wanted to see the city implement or explore that did not get done?
Actually no. My interest in serving on council stemmed from watching the mind boggling, irresponsible residential growth that was taking place and knowing that there was a train wreck coming. Any serious student of municipal planning will tell you that residential growth rarely pays it's own way. It is like a drug in that as long as it keeps coming everything is okay. But just like a drug, there is always an end to the high and getting clean and sober is painful. Canton is well on the way to understanding these indisputable facts. The question is, will we learn from the past and do better next time or will we just do it all over again?
5. Moving forward, what do you think the council's biggest challenges are?
I think that growth and development is coming back soon. That can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. Their challenge will be distinguishing the good from the bad.
6. What, if any, advice do you have for your successor?
You are already hearing from those who have personal agendas and want to pressure you to act hastily before you really get your feet on the ground. Take your time to thoroughly understand the issues. Go to your classes at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government in Athens. Truly understand how our council/manager form of government works. There will be plenty of time to make the big decisions. "To thine own self be true."
7. What do you want to say to the Canton residents you've served over the last four years?
There are more than 23,000 of you. Almost half are registered voters, yet only something like 1,500 care enough to vote. To those who care enough to vote I say thank you for being part of the solution. To the 85% who don't vote, I say you are the problem.