The roads were frozen, the schools taking a bad weather day when I turned my vehicle toward Dublin and my interview with Mayor David Leatherwood. Of course, the Leatherwood name has been a part of Dublin since the 19 teens when Clarence Edward Leatherwood moved to the little village all the way from Lingleville, a whopping how many miles?
Today, it’s difficult to walk through Dublin without stepping on a Leatherwood. “Edward the First was a mayor; brother Pat is on the school board and was once on the city council; brother Jimmy is on the council and was once the mayor; sister Luanne is the executive director of the chamber, and my wife has taught in the Dublin school system for over twenty years. Today, we’re on our 5th generation of Leatherwoods in Dublin, and we all want to be involved in the town in some way.”
But what I wanted to know specifically was why the mayorship. I’ve seen firsthand as a member of the city council of Comanche that it is a thankless job and with a paycheck of $100. a month, I knew it couldn’t be for the money!
“Well, I almost didn’t run,” he laughed, “because my wife wouldn’t let me! But after she thought about it for about a week, she came back and said that maybe running for mayor was just what I should do and that she actually thought I’d make a good mayor so I decided to go for it.
“I just felt like I grew up here and I needed to give something back to the town. Plus, I feel like there is so much that needs doing. If everyone would give a little of himself, we could get so much done, you know what I mean?”
Did I ever know what he meant! I’ve said the same thing so many times until I know that people are sick to death of hearing it. A small town cannot run itself, nor can the hired city employees do it all because there simply is not enough money to pay to get it all done. Elected officials are just glorified volunteers, and there is a limit to how much they can do, BUT if every single citizen gave one hour per week….one hour per month…can you even start to imagine how much work could be done?
“Yes, Mayor Leatherwood, I know what you mean!” I thought to myself.
“The mayor is the bus driver. I don’t have a vote, but I do drive the bus, and that is extremely important. I don’t know how else to put it. I felt that I had the experience to be the mayor from having been an extremely active chamber of commerce president. Executive director Nancy Wooldridge and I worked very closely together on a lot of projects to promote Dublin, and I had quite a bit of insight on the inner workings of the town.
“When I was sworn in, Dublin had no city manager, and I turned to Nancy who agreed to come onboard as our interim manager for as long as I was the mayor. Two weeks later she WAS the fulltime manager. She has great business sense, and I needed that in a manager.
“When I came in, the first thing I had to do was look at our sewer plant. We were supposedly building a 6 million dollar sewer facility, and we lacked some land. It was supposed to be a grant, and we had to have that land. None of that had been done right by previous councils and managers so we had to figure out what to do.
“What we found was that everyone else was going back to the lagoon system, which was what we already had so for a lot less than six million, actually for less than a million, we could just pump our lagoon system and we were fixed. There had been so much kicking the can down the road, and we just had to decide that we were going to be the ones to stop the kicking.
“And that’s another thing we have learned. Lots of times, the things that are wrong are not the fault of the current council; they go back much farther than that. I’ve also learned that you don’t get a whole lot done in only two years,” he smiled.
“But things are looking up in Dublin. Good things going on at the school; we have Luke Wade, and Bottling Works is expanding. I’m going to run for another term. It’s taken two years to figure things out, and I can see so many things we need to do. Besides, my wife has already told me that I can,” the boyish faced mayor laughed!
And then David Leatherwood turned serious on me.
“A city council has to take charge of its town, has to be sure that the city manager is doing his job and making the right decisions. You simply cannot just give a manager carte blanche. That’s an invitation for disaster.
“As mayor, I sit down with the city manager and wade through what city employees report that we need so that our manager can then make the right decisions on what money we have to spend versus what the others WANT to spend. It’s just good checks and balances. We all have to do our jobs and stay on top of things. That’s what we are elected to do and what the people expect us to do.”
And what else does he hope to accomplish for Dublin?
“I just hope the toilets keep flushing!”
Believe it or not, I knew exactly what he meant although I also know that almost no one realizes what a tremendous concern those flushes are for all small town mayors.