mayor of Strasbourg takes on a role of service to citizens | Everyday
As Strasbourg City Manager Waverly Coggsdale says, unlike a retail environment that sells goods, government provides a service.
This service is to help citizens.
“We serve our citizens. They are the customer,” Coggsdale said. “If you don’t really stop to think about it, you forget about it.”
Coggsdale shared his thoughts in an interview last month about how he’s settling into the job about six months since he started it.
After a 16-year stint as city manager in Altavista, a town south of Lynchburg, and 12 years as deputy county manager in Southampton, West Virginia, Coggsdale was hired in Strasburg in July.
“I guess you do something for a long time, they think you must have learned something along the way,” Coggsdale said. “You learn it’s about the people.”
He became involved in government after graduating from Bluefield College. The job provided an opportunity to get out of the office and do a different job every day, not create “widgets”.
With a sister-in-law in Harrisonburg, Coggsdale fell in love with the Shenandoah Valley, he said. Jobs at the “top of the org” don’t come around often, but he’s kept his eyes peeled for the opportunity to find the one he’s currently in.
He and his wife did their due diligence in their research on Strasbourg before deciding that he would give up the comfortable job he had and work here.
“We went down and visited, and walked around, ate a few places, shopped, talked to people,” said Coggsdale, whose three children are adults and out of the home. “Sometimes you just go for the vibe you get and the first impression. It was very positive. »
Now in office for six months, Coggsdale said he was working to meet City Council’s goals. Some new managers may seek to make their mark on the city with changes; he decided to adopt a more evaluative and deliberative approach.
“I’ll think about it, let me put it here and see if in two weeks I feel the same,” Coggsdale said. “Because if I don’t, then OK, I probably did good not to make a change. It’s a constantly evolving process to say how can we do better.
Yet one of the main issues Coggsdale is focusing on is attracting employees, particularly in the public works department amid difficulties finding workers in many occupations across the country.
The recruitment focus also includes the staffing of administrative positions, including the Deputy General Manager and Deputy Planner positions that were approved in this year’s budget. An administrator position in urban planning and zoning and a position of director of community development, currently to be filled on an interim basis, are also open.
The intent was for the deputy planner to take on some of the responsibilities of a director of community development, while working with the county on these efforts. The position of director of community development would have a more local focus. But maybe there’s a way to get the assistant city manager to help out with the planning job, Coggsdale said.
“Always a good time to watch what you’re doing,” Coggsdale said of the vacancies. “Local governments, we’ve always said that as long as they don’t have the salary that maybe the private sector has, our benefits are our good. Maybe that has changed a bit over the years.
A problem for the government is not having the retail business model by which more products can be sold to make more money, Coggsdale said. Government revenue comes from taxes and no one wants to see taxes go up, Coggsdale said.
“But if you attract more, maybe you get more,” Coggsdale said of balancing the need to find revenue that compensates for the service offered. “Whether it’s meal tax or lodging tax, you have more development in the community, so you’ll have more real estate, personal property taxes.”
As for development, Strasbourg was on the verge of having several homes built several years ago, but the economy then collapsed and over 1,000 potential new households remain on hold, including the Cedar Valley project on Route 11. Woodstock, the next stop on Interstate 81 from Winchester near the Interstate 66 interchange toward Washington DC, is in a similar position, Coggsdale said.
“A city of five square miles, you probably don’t want to double in size in five years. It’s hard to be really ready for that,” Coggsdale said, adding that increased broadband capabilities could draw people to the area.
One way to prepare for more growth is to revise the city’s 300-plus-page Uniform Development Ordinance, which council has expressed an interest in revising and making more suitable for a city the size of Strasbourg, said Coggsdale.
“If your professional staff is struggling to understand it, what does that mean for the general public? said Coggsdale. “There are good components, but it’s a bear, like reading War and Peace.”
Whatever problem the city faces, whether it’s working with the county on economic development to fill the business park or using federal funds for infrastructure projects, much of Coggsdale’s job is accountability. Accountability can be seen in its efforts to relay information about the business park trails to the council.
“They are the decision makers,” Coggsdale said. “My job is to make sure they’re well informed, almost to try to anticipate their questions, and I think that’s where the experience pays off for me.”
This is also seen in working with Waste Management to ensure that garbage collection takes place when it is supposed to.
“Here’s a company that said we’re coming in to provide you with a service, but here’s the parameters,” Coggsdale said. “You have to honor that. If you don’t, you should be held accountable for why you don’t honor it, because we pay you. We don’t pay you to do what you want.
The COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed 189 lives in Shenandoah County as of Jan. 15 seems to be going nowhere and has become too political, Coggsdale acknowledged. He is vaccinated with the intention of getting vaccinated. But the decision to be or to wear a brand is up to everyone.
“You just have to be aware and stay alert,” Coogsdale said, encouraging people to do what’s right for them while being mindful of others. “If we see certain situations developing, we will certainly make decisions if necessary.”
Coggsdale worked 29 years in government, one shy of the 30 years needed to receive state pension benefits. His wife found work teaching third grade at WW Robinson in Woodstock.
“It’s not my intention,” Coggsdale said of retiring soon or venturing to work somewhere else. “We’ve found a great community that we think we can really engage with.”