Kansas City Mayor Sly James, a visiting fellow this fall at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, will be in the classroom this week to share some of what he’s learned in six-plus years on the job with more than 20 newly elected urban executives.
The new mayors will be there as part of a biennial seminar sponsored by the school’s Institute of Politics and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Among those scheduled to attend are mayors-elect LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans, Michelle De La Isla of Topeka and Vi Lyles of Charlotte. We spoke briefly with James Monday about what he wants to say:
Take a position and dig in: “I think the most important thing I can tell the new mayors is don’t be swayed by politics and don’t be pressured by the media. Make decisions based on facts and data. When have your facts straight and your data straight, you can support the decision. And don’t be worried about the reaction. There's always going to be a group of people who don’t like what you're doing no matter what it is. They'll get used to that.”
Beware the press: “I'm going to tell them the media is a necessary evil. They're not your friend. So don't ever be enticed into thinking that they are. But they are people who are absolutely vital to democracy, and that’s a good thing. But be careful with what you do and say and don't allow yourself to get too high when they praise you or too low when they criticize you. They'll do both as it fits their needs.”
Don’t overpromise in first 100 Days: “A lot of times people make up these 100 days things out of their own heads. But they never consider the friction that comes with trying to get things passed through a group like the (city) council.”
Hire well and delegate: “You find your best agenda, you put in the people necessary to get it done. You get smart people, assign them some responsibility try not to overly micromanage them, and work on several things at once. And delegate. You’ve got to learn to delegate You can’t do it all yourself.”