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Mayor Looks Back on 14 Months of Life in Politics in TV Interview

Covington Mayor Chuck Scheper appeared on WKRC's Newsmakers program Sunday and talked about his successful run as leader of the city for the past fourteen months. Host Dan Hurley talked with Scheper for the full thirty minutes and discussed how he came to be mayor, the "brutal facts" Scheper laid out to the public, and the social contract he expected the city commissioners to follow before he decided to take office.

Though Scheper had recently retired (or, "rewired" as he commonly says) from Great American Insurance, he was not looking to be involved in politics. When Denny Bowman resigned as mayor in September 2011, the phone started ringing. "I was approached by (City Commissioner) Steve Frank initially and he asked me if I would consider it and I wasn't aware that Denny (Bowman) was considering resigning at that point and I just kind of laughed because I had not political apirations at all," Scheper said. "In fact, I said no to Steve and then I said no in sequence to each of the commissioners. But they were persistent and had some individuals from the community calling me up and I said, well, let me think about it and that led to some more reflection about what I could do and I decided ultimately to take on the challenge."

The challenges were apparent and Scheper laid them out in his first and only State of the City address last January when he delivered what were called "the brutal facts" facing Covington and his ten-point plan to solve some of the problems. Hurley noted that it was strange for a new mayor to use a forum like a state of the city to deliver such warnings. "I think the city was facing a financial crisis and my belief is that in order to have a vision it has to be a shared vision and so unless you are able to confront the brutal facts, you really can't make progress," the mayor said. "And I think it's important to tell the story and to get people on board."

 

"This plan was not just my plan, this was the plan of a unified commission," Scheper continued. "We spent the first couple months diagnosing the situation, looking at the facts. I'm very much data-driven and so the facts really supported the conclusions in the ten-point plan that we unveiled."
 
Prior to getting to work with the city commissioners, Scheper issued a social contract. In the final months of Bowman's tenure, debate had been tense and often heated. "When I decided to consider the role I put together a position paper of challenges the city was facing, and some of the solutions I thought were necessary to move forward and I met individually with each commissioner but before I had that conversation I gave them a copy of the social contract we had at Great American and I said, we're not going to agree on everything and I expect disagreements and good dialogue and discourse about the disagreements and differences, but we're going to do it with respect and civility or I'm not interested because life's too short. So they all agreed that yes, we would maintain that social contract and then I got into the discussion about challenging issues and they were ready to face them and I think we've done a lot in terms of really changing the tide for the future."
 
In the interview, Scheper also discussed his success with union negotiations ("I learned in my career that you can't just develop trust without having a relationship so I tried to understand a little more what their issues were."), the city's geographic challenges ("There needs to be a more regional approach to certain things."), and what he's learned in office ("I think I have a greater appreciation for public servants and what they do."). 
 
For those topics and more, watch the full interview: WKRC
 
Written by Michael Monks, Editor & Publisher of The River City News
 
PHOTO: Mayor Scheper at Christmas 2011/RCN file