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The Campaign Coach | Politics | Get Elected | Winning Local Elections

Craig Turner is a nationally recognized political consultant who has managed campaigns for two decades. On the show, Craig interviews politicians and political experts to share how they get elected, stay elected, and make a difference… and you can too. For a free copy of Craig’s new candidate’s guide, “How to Avoid the 7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Keep You From Getting Funded, Getting Votes... And Getting Elected”…..go to http://www.TheCampaignCoach.com
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Now displaying: June, 2016
Jun 29, 2016

Guy Marlette is a former town board member in Amherst New York, just outside Buffalo. First elected to office in 2007, Guy served for eight years as town board member and deputy supervisor before he reached his term limit at the end of 2015. His bid for an Erie County Legislature seat in 2015 fell just short, polling 43% of the votes against a significant Democratic overlay. Guy's background is in the private sector. He's the owner of Alternative Information Systems in Buffalo, which provides expertise in data communications, network setup, network management for small and mid-sized companies.

 

Welcome to the Campaign Coach Podcast.  Craig Turner is a nationally recognized political consultant who has managed campaigns for two decades.  On the show, Craig interviews politicians and political experts to share how they get elected, stay elected, and make a difference… and you can too.  For a free copy of Craig’s new candidate’s guide, “How to Avoid the 7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Keep You From Getting Funded, Getting Votes... And Getting Elected” go to http://www.TheCampaignCoach.com

 

Jun 22, 2016

MARK GRIMM, COUNTY LEGISLATOR, ALBANY, NY

Mark Grimm is a County Legislator from Albany, New York. In November 2015, Mark won election, pulling 65% of his district while overcoming a significant enrollment disadvantage. In 2007, Mark upset two long-term incumbents to win a Town Board Seat in his home of Guilderland, New York, and actually ran for office for the first time back in 1989. In addition to serving as County Legislator, Mark is President of Mark Grimm Communications, where he helps candidates, business people, and others perfect the art of public speaking. He's a nationally renowned speaker. He's personally interviewed both President Bush and President Clinton, and he's the author of the book Everyone Can Be a Dynamic Speaker, Yes, I Mean You.

 

 

Welcome to the Campaign Coach Podcast.  Craig Turner is a nationally recognized political consultant who has managed campaigns for two decades.  On the show, Craig interviews politicians and political experts to share how they get elected, stay elected, and make a difference… and you can too.  For a free copy of Craig’s new candidate’s guide, “How to Avoid the 7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Keep You From Getting Funded, Getting Votes... And Getting Elected” go to http://www.TheCampaignCoach.com

 

Jun 15, 2016

Dr. Kevin Hardwick is the Director of Urban Studies Program at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, and Erie County Legislator, representing Buffalo's northern suburbs. Kevin's involvement in politics dates back to his senior year in high school when he was elected to a seat on the Susquehanna Valley Board of Education in the Binghamton, New York area. He served for eight years on the Binghamton City Council, twelve years as a council member in the city of Tonawanda, New York, and won re-election in 2015 for his fourth term as county legislator. Kevin also worked through his career directly for the majority leader of the New York State Senate, and hosted a weekly radio program on WBEN in Buffalo on local politics, called Hardline with Kevin Hardwick from 2005-2009.

 

Welcome to the Campaign Coach Podcast.  Craig Turner is a nationally recognized political consultant who has managed campaigns for two decades.  On the show, Craig interviews politicians and political experts to share how they get elected, stay elected, and make a difference… and you can too.  For a free copy of Craig’s new candidate’s guide, “How to Avoid the 7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Keep You From Getting Funded, Getting Votes... And Getting Elected” or to http://www.TheCampaignCoach.com

Jun 8, 2016

Mayor Tom Riel is in his third term as Mayor of Bradford, Pennsylvania. In 2015, Tom won his third consecutive election for the mayor’s office, having first been elected in 2007 after serving 2 years on the Bradford City Council, earning re-election by a five to one margin. As Mayor, Tom led an economic turnaround in his hometown, highlighted by a revitalization of Bradford central business district. Tom also serves on the executive board of the Pennsylvania State Mayors’ association, and for the Pennsylvania Municipal League Legislative Committee.

 

Craig: I am very pleased to have with me today, Tom Riel, who’s in his third term as Mayor of Bradford, Pennsylvania. In 2015, Tom won his third consecutive election for the mayor’s office, having first been elected in 2007 after serving 2 years on the Bradford City Council. It's evident that he knows how to get things done once in office, Mayor Riel was re-elected last year by a five to one margin. That's five-to-one margin. As Mayor, Tom led an economic turn around in his hometown, highlighted by a revitalization of Bradford central business district. Tom also serves on the executive board of the Pennsylvania State Mayors’ association, and for the Pennsylvania Municipal League Legislative Committee. Mayor, welcome. Thanks for being here with us. I really, really appreciate it.

Tom Riel: Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.

Craig: Tom, I'm really glad to be talking to you after having a couple minutes to chat with you the other day. I'm looking forward to digging into your story. When you and I talked by phone the other day, you described yourself as an unconventional politician, which I love and I can't wait to get into that. Before we do though, just do me a favor, and just fill in between the lines of the intro that I just gave. Tell us a little bit more about yourself, and your experience in government and politics.

Tom Riel: Alright. I never thought I would get into politics. When I first moved back to Bradford in 1996, I started to buy a couple buildings in downtown Bradford and the city was kind of all over me about what my plans for the building, kind of dictating what I might do with them. I got kind of annoyed, so I joking said that I was going to open an adult establishment, a new club in a one of the buildings right in the heart of downtown. I was just joking but the city reacted and started enacting ordinances, and tripped over themselves and tried to stop me from something that was never actually going to happen.

To make a long story short, they ended up paying me double what we paid for the building just three months after we purchased it to make the whole problem go away, because they broke the law and were subject to a lawsuit. It kind of opened my eyes to politics. The people that run this town are really that silly and really that stupid. Maybe I should start paying attention to politics. So, I did, and I didn't like what I saw. I pressed more and more, and uncovered what I saw as nepotism and vindictiveness by our government. It was mean. They pushed back and it was some tough years there, but eventually I ran for city council and was elected, and then was elected mayor. To try to do away with some of the bad things I thought I saw in local government.

Craig: How did you launch? You've got your inspiration, you've got your motive for running. How did you dig in, in the first place?

Tom Riel: I was a bit of an activist, or a thorn in the local government’s side. I became well known. I bought this old building and put signs up on the building and questioned the local government. Each of the signs was kind of a riddle and I ended up in federal court, and they did a national news story about it. I was very well known already even though I had never been elected, the public at large knew who I was. In general most people understood what I was doing was a hell of an argument. I wasn't just some crazy person out there trying to be a pain in the butt for the local government. I just announced that I was going to run. Actually I had run a one time before. Before I was actually on the council, I ran for mayor.

Everybody just kind of looked at me like I had three eyeballs or what not because the mayor was always elected from somebody who was actually already in city council and had proven themselves to the public. Everybody was against me. The local fire department, police department went to door-to-door against me. The so-called establishment was against me. I ran and I only lost by 42 votes, so I actually lost the first time I ran. Then two years later is when I actually ran for city council. I was pretty well known, between having run once, which was a failed attempt from there, and then all my local rabble-rousing, I suppose you’d call it.

Craig: What was the ticket the second time. What really pushed you over the top to actually win that town council election?

Tom Riel: I think I was running against somebody who was already on council – an incumbent that wasn't real active. They didn't put much of a fight or campaign up at all. No yard signs, no radio ads, no nothing. They just took for granted because they were already on there, that they were going to stay on there. I think it was just, obviously a mistake on that person.

Craig: Contrast for me the campaign that you ran at the beginning versus now having been in office and having a record and being able to influence things in Bradford. Talk about the different approaches you had for that first campaign and this last campaign.

Tom Riel: It's easy when you've never been elected, to sort of say, “I want to run for public office because I want to change this, this and this. I want to save the taxpayers money doing this, this, and this.” That's very often pie in the sky. But once you've actually been elected and you have a proven track record you can actually say look what I have accomplished, not what I might accomplish. This is what we've accomplished. You're able to run on your record once you've been in office for a period of time. It's proven results, not just somebody saying, well I think I can get in and I can change all these things. I think the general public knows usually that's a lot of hot air.

Craig: As you got into the campaign, even up until today, what surprised you when you were running for office?

Tom Riel: Early on what surprised me was the boldness of the city employees in trying to influence the outcome of an election. Early on, I guess, the first time I ran for Mayor and didn't get elected, and when I actually ran for council and did get elected, there were employees engaged. It was improper and probably illegal, but when I went from city council to actually running for the Mayor’s position, they were involved that time also. So it was for three different elections the city employees were involved. One of the local unions was donating money to my opponent. I was kind of surprised that they were really trying to dictate who was going to be their boss in a way, I suppose. A member of the council.

The last election that happened was, when I ran to be re-elected mayor the second time, I didn't even have an opponent. I ran unopposed. Then this third time here I had a guy running, you couldn't ask for a better candidate, in that he should have never been elected. The public saw that and it was quick, very easy to see it.

Craig: One of the things that we talk about a lot running, and you kind of enunciated it in the beginning, why you ran. Running for a purpose, having a specific reason, then you can tell voters and voters can buy in to. You've done a lot in Bradford since you've had the opportunity to serve as mayor. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the things that you've been able to accomplish once you're in office?

Tom Riel: When I ran, I was very critical of many different aspects of city government. I was very critical of code enforcement. It had been a decade long failure, but continuing down a failing road was only speeding up the demise of our housing stock in Bradford. Once I was elected I didn't let up, and I kept on that. Eventually it was that the code enforcement that was negotiated out of the fire department. We formed a new property maintenance office and brought them to consult from the outside, and really restructured the whole program. Gave them little devices so that they're out in the field with technology, they don't have to wait and write things down on paper. We took code enforcement and turned it from property maintenance out of the dark ages and brought it into the modern world. That's an accomplishment the city council and many other people worked together on to make happen.

When I ran and was elected mayor the first time, the police department needed a change of leadership, a kind of overhaul. We've really done that. We've had two police chiefs since I became mayor. We've gotten the general public involved and solicited a lot of private funds to really bring the department up to a technological level that's not even seen by any other department in this whole region of northern Pennsylvania. We did all that with hundreds of thousands of dollars, and pretty much all with private money. I think people believe in what I'm doing. They believe in what the police department is doing. They would all come forward and donate money so we can, for example, we put the entire downtown business district under video surveillance with these cameras. We would never have done it with tax payers dollars. We brought the level of training of our police offers have to a much higher standard. We have in-car computers that we didn't have before. Our officers were some of the first ones in Pennsylvania to actually wear body cameras. We raised that money privately as well. As mayor I directly oversee the police department. I think it's really brought the police department a long way.

Craig: Running a campaign to get people to support you for office is one animal, but campaigning to get private dollars for an initiative like that is something else. How were you able to accomplish that?

Tom Riel: A lot of the time we've had to reach out, mail out letters and do stories in the newspaper that we're trying to raise money. We've had, luckily, we've done quite a few fundraisers. We go back to some of the same people and they're willing to give us money, and there are some people willing to give five thousand dollars every time we ask for it. And some people willing to give ten thousand dollars. I had somebody call up one time, and they said they wanted to give the city a hundred thousand dollars and this is what I want you to do with it. They wanted to help out the police department, so we had the police chief put together a list of everything the police department could possibly want, putting in a new roof, new heating, new air conditioning, new furniture. It was an extensive list and it came out to much more than a hundred thousand dollars. When we pitched all these improvements to the police department, to this person, they actually wrote a check for more than a hundred thousand dollars – covered everything on the list and gave us extra.

Sometimes it's not always soliciting. People see that we're doing a good job and they want to help out.

Craig: That's really fantastic, you're going to have a lot of mayors listening to this, jealous of that kind of involvement in the community. So you're fairly soon into your third term now. What's the biggest challenge you're facing now. What are you trying to accomplish in this term?

Tom Riel: We want to make the tax base our number one priority for the City of Bradford. The City of Bradford's population has been declining since 1940. So for 75 years it's been declining and it's something that we need to address much more aggressively. Which we're doing several ways. We're doing it through the new property maintenance office program. It's not the deterioration of existing dwellings. We have several different entities and programs in Bradford that are actually building new homes in the city of Bradford, which raises the tax base. In some cases, it raises it three hundred percent higher than what the old buildings that were before the built the new homes. We're really aggressively trying deal with that.

Craig: That's great, that's great.

Tom Riel: We have some major economic development projects in the downtown that should generate many more times the cash dollars than the old structures that were there previously.

Craig: Sure.

Tom Riel: We've even convinced some private developers to get on board. It's not just a city job. We have private developers building houses and raising some significant areas in the downtown for new commercial development. There's a buy in by people from the general public as well.

Craig: It's fantastic when you can build momentum and then people see some good things happening and start to invest, themselves. Let me go to the campaign. I'm going to ask you two questions as those who are listening are largely candidates who are thinking of running for the first time, or are already committed to running for the first time. I'm going to ask you two questions, one is along the way, in any of your campaigns from your first one to the most recent, is there a mistake that you've made that, if you could go back and fix it you would, and what you learned from it? The second question, which I'll get to after that is some advice – advice for somebody who is thinking of running for office.

Tom Riel: I've made a couple of mistakes. Sometimes you trust the wrong people, with the trick being a small town, or a small city, you got to watch what you say. When you're campaigning, you say one wrong thing to the wrong person it's going to come back around and get you. The main thing, I've had people come in and ask for advice how to run a campaign. Anybody that wants to run, they need to have a platform. Particularly somebody who has never been elected before.

Earlier when I talked to you about people saying there's a pie-in-the-sky wanting to change this, this, and this. That's all great and wonderful but if you're wanting to have a good solid platform to run on you want to explain how you're going to accomplish those goals, how you're going to achieve those changes, you're not just saying I'm going to change this stuff. You have to have a roadmap on how you're going to accomplish what's in your platform. Running for political office is a sales job, is what it is. You have to sell yourself to the general public why you're better than whoever is running against you. So it's about selling yourself. I've seen some great people running for public office but they didn't have the ability to publicly sell themselves at all. They were just too timid and meek.

Craig: We talk about that a lot, the sales piece of it and how folks who come out of the private sector, these small business people who don't have a problem picking up the phone and calling somebody to get a client. That's a transition they can make because they're used to doing it. You're touching on something that you've said at a couple times that I want to go back to. You mentioned about a small town, a small city and how the politics, there's a specific way to approach politics there. You are on the executive board on the Pennsylvania Mayors’ Association and Pennsylvania has some very large cities, and you're interacting with those folks. Can you shed some light on what you see in the differences in how they approach not only their jobs, but ultimately their campaigns as opposed to how you do in a smaller city.

Tom Riel: I know that some mayors of larger cities use social media to aid them in their campaigning. There are some mayors that are on social media everyday, they're on Facebook posting updates and what-not. That's fine if you have privacy settings where people can't come on there and attack you. I've heard horror stories about social media and those who campaign out there, where people can go out and just form a phony account under made up make believe name really and say pretty much anything they want about a candidate. I think social media is a pretty dangerous thing for an elected official. Keep it strictly to the city business with privacy settings.

Craig: What about door-to-door canvasing and those kind of those things. Obviously in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. It's TV buys and things like that, that are going to ultimately make the difference.

Tom Riel: I think door-to-door if you have a street list made for the primary. You have a street list of active Republican voters, you only knock on the doors of the houses where you know, and keep a log. I think if someone had the time to do that, it's great. It's a great way to touch base with people. But it can also be very time consuming. I've done it and people pull me in to their house. Pry yourself out of there because they don't want to let you go. Also just reach out to people, I've been known to do this a lot, if you reach out to people that don't normally vote that you might know, or be a neighbor or a friend or somebody and you give them a reason to vote, and kind of coach them a long and follow up with them with a call a week before the election – ask them if they feel like they fall in to your campaign. There's a lot people just looking for a reason to vote. They’re tired of the same old, same old issue, the center of the jury so to speak.

There's also, there's a lot of people that you might know personally, who might be registered to another party. Not the party you're running in, and very often be around those people, even if you just went to school with them, really not that close to them, and you approached them politely enough, right now. They're willing to switch over to your party to help get you in the primary. I've done that, switched over hundreds of people.

Craig: That's pretty impressive. You talked about follow up. That's just such a key. You see a lot of candidates will knock on somebody's door, say hi to them in May, and then that's the last you hear from them until they get a mail piece a week before the election. The follow up is so key to make people understand that you are actually there for them. You're running to be their representative.

Tom Riel: Yeah. Just follow up and coach them, not just register to vote, and say, “Hey, vote.” But reach back out to them. Get a chance to stop by. Put a yard sign in their yard. Give them a phone call. In the election between Obama and Romney that Romney spent 4.5 million on social media and Obama spent 45 million. There is some truth to that, that it does work, but I think in a small town, it more so could be dangerous.

Craig: I really like, you keep using the word “coaching.” Coaching of voters. That's a great principal that makes an awful lot of sense. Let's talk about your own inspirations. Is there a book that you've read that's impacted your political career or your interactions in your community.

Tom Riel: One of my favorite books is a book called On Leadership by Rudy Giuliani. It's a great book, it's a must read for anyone who is an elected official. There's another book called The Great Mayor. It's worth a read. There's one that was written by a former mayor in New Jersey called The Mayor's Chronicles. That's a really interesting book to read. It shows what happens when you get elected but you get on the wrong side of the political machine.

Craig: What do you read on a daily basis? How do you stay in-the-know on issues and on your community?

Tom Riel: I'm a news junkie. I read the local newspaper everyday. I read a lot of news on the internet. I particularly try to read the municipal news of Pennsylvania. They're updated daily. I try to keep abreast of what's going on across the state as far as municipal news. I'm active with, as you mentioned before, some of the state organizations, I get updates on that and a lot of news from those organizations as well.

Craig: You've had some success in the political arena that's led to being able to accomplish things in the governmental arena. Again, to someone who is thinking of running for office or is engaged in their first campaign already, what's been the key to your success? What approach of yours, or what asset of yours, has paved the way for you?

Tom Riel: When you want to try to change things in government, the wheels turn very slowly. When you first get elected you really want to change those things but it takes time. You’ve got to get the rest of your elected body on board, there's very often laws that prohibit you to work, contractual obligations with your union employees that don't line up with changes. Everything seems to take twice as long as you'd like. I think it's hard for anybody here in one term to really change a whole lot. For a couple of terms. The key is, is you have to be on board with the rest of your elective body. You want to get elected and the rest of your elected body whether it's your council, city council. If they’re not on board with you, you're going to accomplish nothing. You have to work with the rest of the elected officials before accomplishing any goals.

Craig: So what's next for you? You're just starting out your third term as mayor.

Tom Riel: First mayor in the city's history to serve three terms. I wonder if they realized something I didn't. Maybe I made a mistake.

Craig: Yeah.

Tom Riel: It's been a challenge. It's been difficult. It's taken up a lot on me personally, even financially, with my marriage and my wife. We've persevered and we keep pushing through. My wife was very much against me being elected mayor the first few times, but this last time she started to really look back some of the things that we as a team have accomplished in the city of Bradford. I mean that sincerely, it's not just words, it's not just your locally elected official, it's all your department heads and employees that all worked together as a team to accomplish things. My wife looked back and saw the accomplishments and saw the person that was running against me. Would we survive if that person were to be elected? She approved me running a third time, that's never happened before. I don't know that I'll run for a fourth mayor, people keep asking. We'll see what the next couple of years bring up. I don't have an ambitions to seek any higher office outside of that.

Craig: Sure, sure. You’ve got time for that. You mentioned your wife's involvement in the decision making process. That comes up an awful lot in these interviews. As we're trying to get candidates to understand, there really is an impact on your family. It's not only yourself. It's your family and how important it is to have that support with you as you're getting in to this.

Tom Riel: We don't have any children but I've seen other elected officials, their families get dragged in this and ultimately, it's just brutal. My wife was very much against me running for mayor the first few times. I think I had to threaten her with divorce to even get her to vote for me. This past time I didn't have to do that.

Craig: Okay.

Tom Riel: Anybody running for office should sit down with his or her family because it does take a lot of time. We have two public meetings a month, but we have many other meetings behind the scenes. The meetings that I have to attend are 10 or 20 times as much work as people actually think it is. It does take a big chunk of your private life if you're going to be an active and successful elected official. Really, family, you got to take them into consideration.

Craig: Right, right. Mayor where can people find out more about you and more about what's going on in Bradford?

Tom Riel: I can find out stuff that I didn't even know about myself if I were to Google it on the internet. There's a lot of nonsense out there. About the city of Bradford, you can go to the Mayor’s extension and leave a voicemail and it will immediately come in to my cell phone, no matter where I am. I try to get back. Anybody that wants to reach out, you're more than welcome.

Craig: That's great. Well Mayor, thank you so much.

Tom Riel: I'm on Facebook too. But I'm not political on Facebook. Send me a message.

Craig: Your personal page, which is always that delicate balance.

Tom Riel: Yes sir.

Craig: Well, thank you again for joining us today. I really appreciate it, really enjoyed talking to you. I wish you the best of luck with this third term and with all of your personal and professional endeavors. I definitely, definitely want to stay in touch with you.

Tom Riel: Okay, thank you sir.

Craig: Thank you very much.

 

Welcome to the Campaign Coach Podcast.  Craig Turner is a nationally recognized political consultant who has managed campaigns for two decades.  On the show, Craig interviews politicians and political experts to share how they get elected, stay elected, and make a difference… and you can too.  For a free copy of Craig’s new candidate’s guide, “How to Avoid the 7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Keep You From Getting Funded, Getting Votes... And Getting Elected” or to http://www.TheCampaignCoach.com

 

Jun 1, 2016

On November 3, 2009, Kim was elected the first African-American mayor of the City of York and was sworn in as York's 24th mayor in January 2010. In 2013, Mayor Bracey was successful in her bid for re-election and is now in the middle of her second term, representing 43,000 residents and overseeing a budget of $98 million. Kim is a US Force veteran, serving our country over a decade and earning the National Defense Service Medal and the Air Force Good Conduct Medal. In her role as mayor, Kim has championed a number of successful community initiatives such as Job One Citywide Customer Service, Zero Tolerance for Blight, Community Policing and Mentor York. She is also the founding President of the York Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, a 30-year-old national organization whose mission is to develop leaders to rebuild their communities.

 

Craig: I am very pleased to have with me my guest today, Mayor Kim Bracey. Mayor of York, Pennsylvania.

On November 3rd 2009, Kim was elected the first African-American mayor of the City of York and was sworn in as York's 24th mayor in January 2010. In 2013, Mayor Bracey was successful in her bid for re-election and is now in the middle of her second term as mayor, where she represents 43,000 residents and oversees a budget of $98 million.

Kim is a US Force veteran, serving our country for over a decade and earning the National Defense Service Medal and the Air Force Good Conduct Medal.

In her role as mayor, Kim has championed a number of successful community initiatives such as Job One Citywide Customer Service, Zero Tolerance for Blight, Community Policing and Mentor York. She is also the founding President of the York Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, a 30-year-old national organization whose mission is to develop leaders to rebuild their communities.

Mayor welcome, thank you so much for being here with us.

Kim Bracey: Thank you. I'm honored to be here with you.

Craig: Mayor, I'm extremely excited to get into this interview and I'm looking forward to digging into something I intentionally didn't mention in your bio because I want you to talk about it. Which is how your work in under-served communities in York built the foundation for your eventual election as mayor. Would you just do us the favor of filling in between the lines in my intro for our listeners? Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your experience in government and politics.

Kim Bracey: You've already mentioned I am a native Yorker. That's what we call ourselves. I think that added a lot of credibility to my candidacy and campaign and ultimate win.

I worked in the community, somewhat impoverished. It fell on some hard times. It's about 68 blocks of an area of our city, the south-east end of the city. There was a couple of the strong anchors in that area. We had our major hospital there, one of our major colleges, as well as a social service agency known to many in that area. It was a lot of forethought and wisdom around the table, and they came up with a need for somewhat of a grassroots community action, organizing agency that should be in place. To help people understand their role and taking back their neighborhoods. Getting rid of the blight. Becoming more accountable and responsible. Taking on leadership roles in that area.

After my return from the Air Force, I came back home – a place that I actually said I would never come back to. Here I am. I got involved with this organization and I ended up as the Executive Director as well. It was probably was my first foray into community organizing… As a coined phrase these days, thanks to President Obama.

There were many of us on the ground encouraging residents of the area to take back their neighborhood. Again, ridden with crime and dilapidated buildings. The negative elements and societal ills you often see in an urban community. That was my first community work, as an adult.

As a native Yorker, I did a number of community service projects here. As a young person, I worked as a candy-striper at our hospital. We don't even say that term anymore. I then thought I wanted to be a nurse. I'm in this nice little uniform and I had the hat that I had to wear and everything, so I went to school to be a nurse.

I knew I wanted to help people and be involved, if you will. When we got to that semester where we were doing some blood work, I knew it wasn't for me. "Okay, social working. I'll do that instead.” That's how I ended up really working with people. The South George Street Community Partnership was my introduction to community organizing and working. Rolling up my sleeves and working with AmeriCorps members and folks from all walks of life, to transform an area of the city.

At that time the mayor, my predecessor, served on the board of the organization. He saw the work I was doing and he named me as his Community Development Director. I guess he figured, "You could do this in 68 blocks of the city. We need you all over the city.” So, I was a member of his Cabinet. I won't say overnight, but at the time I wasn't thinking about politics or what it meant to be a Cabinet member of a city. So then I'm in politics all of a sudden. All I wanted to do is make my home, my community, the best that it can be. I had the respect of many in the neighborhoods in some of the work that I did, and their willingness to roll up their sleeves alongside of me.

When the mayor indicated that after his second term he wasn't going to run again, I thought, "We did a lot of work here together. What do you mean? What does that mean for your Cabinet Members?" You have to think about that, I think, in politics, that you do become a part of the administration. The next administration likely won't keep you. They have their folks that they believe can and do the job, or do it better in some cases.

After he said he wasn't going to run again, and lots of family consultation and key advisors and lots of prayer, I decided to put my hat in the ring to run for mayor.

In college, I was a member of the Black Student Union. We lobbied for federal aid – financial aid. We did some organizing on campus, but nothing, no formal political science was in my background or anything that I wanted to do. I got into politics in an unorthodox way I would say. That's how it started for me.

Craig: What's interesting in the whole story that you just told and your path to becoming mayor is that there's one way to interpret it if you're in your first term as mayor. There's another way to interpret it if you're in your second term as mayor. In your second term, it wasn't a surprise if you were elected. It was your leadership that got you there.

Let me ask about that first campaign. How did you launch your first campaign? One of the perspectives that I want to look at, because a lot of our listeners thinking about running for office are naturally in many cases looking at a town board or a village trustee seat. A legislative seat rather than the executive. Your first campaign was for the executive for a 43,000-resident city. Can you talk about how you approached that?

Kim Bracey: I did leave out one other piece here and I'm sorry about that Craig. I did take the opportunity to run for City Council, while serving as the Executive Director of South George Street Community Partnership. Our city counselors are at large, but I felt the need to have our voices heard from the southeast end of the city and tried. I lost by 7 votes.

It was legislative side of government, where the executives ran the legislative side in York, which has the strong mayor format as well too. This is an executive position that I hold now. The legislators help write the law, and the administration has to enforce it.

Losing that seat by 7 votes, yeah I remember it. But it didn't fit my personality, anyways.

Fast-forward to running for office of mayor. Again, having worked in the former mayor's administration, I knew some of the nuts and bolts. I was his Community Development Director for 6 years. I served as acting mayor in his absence on a couple of occasions, but you still don't know what’s going on until you're sitting in this chair.

As you've mentioned, the support of the residents and the leadership that I was able to demonstrate really was the voice that was missing here in York at the time. I don't take all credit for this either. I had a tremendous team of grassroots supporters that we did it from the ground. It was a groundswell of folks.

We were riding on, and I will say this again because it was our first election, riding on President's Obama's win, and the high that the nation, in my opinion, was on because of him. I would be, if elected, the first African-American to serve in a city that's seen it's share of racial strife and issues. Right here in the heart of central Pennsylvania. There were a lot of stars aligned for this to work so well, too.

The opportunity has to be something any would-be candidate and hopeful winner should look at. The timing has to be right. People always say, "Well you never know about the timing. It's never right,” but in politics I believe it is. You have to look at the numbers too. We are a majority Democratic city, as most third-class cities in Pennsylvania are. For a Republican to try to win in this city and this climate, they likely wouldn't.

On the flip side of that though, our county is predominantly Republican. Often times we see Democrats switch parties to win. More of a county-wide seat, sort of rural offices within a county because of those demographics. I think those kinds of things are very important when folks are thinking about running for either a state office or a local executive office.

Again, I like being able to get things done. I'm fortunate to have a great state representative, as well as a relationship with our current governor. The second term that I'm in, and I'm fast forwarding and then I'll go back, is feeling pretty good. We're doing some things right now that are only happening, again, because the stars are aligned.

To start off with the campaign, a lot of it began in my living room. Then at the time, my husband and I decided we better rent some space, because we had so many supporters and volunteers. People just knocking on the door wanting to be a part of it. It was refreshing. It was an open and honest campaign that embraced any and every one. I know that got us over the hump. We won every ward that we have in the city. Here I am, for the first term. Then the second term I had a challenge. We can talk about that whenever you're ready. I don't know if you have any other questions about that first term, run.

Craig: I do actually. That's a great story about working out of your living room and how refreshing it had to be to have people coming to support you. I hope that all of our listeners that are running for office experience the same kind of love when they're running.

You were involved in the city and you even had a position of leadership in the city, but all of a sudden as a candidate you were the person. So what, as you started running for mayor, what surprised you when you got out there during your campaign?

Kim Bracey: As you, and many of you listeners probably already know as well, too, I ended up having to resign from the Cabinet. We looked at that on the calendar and how the mayor could work without me for a number of months or whatever. But because of the funding and the fact of the matter is that York is a small city and everything that I do now, as mayor. I go to the grocery store and people don't think the mayor eats. Well, she does. She has to buy things. I'm still the mayor. I don't believe, we didn't want to chance anything that looked bad or was bad as Community Development Director campaigning for mayor. I stepped away from the Cabinet all together, number one.

Two surprises then were, "Okay, so you just abandoned your job to do this work. What happens?" Some of the response from concerned citizens became a little louder. While we had a great group of supporters. There were those that weren't quite ready for the change. I think I was even wearing dreadlocks at the time. Everything in central Pennsylvania were shifting a bit. Unfortunately, there were some things hurled our way that were racial. Ugly words and against women. That was a surprise.

I had been in the Air Force. Really? I come home, and my hometown, this is how we're still at it at the 21st century? It was surprising of a community perhaps not fully ready to embrace the change that was happening. I had been living in a world where I'm assisting in helping with issues that came forward. Getting things done. Now you're going to run for the highest office in the city, I think came with a different sort of twist for some people.

Craig: That kind of stuff blows your mind, too.

Kim Bracey: It does. Of course when it gets personal you have to make sure the ground rules are really set and reiterated if need be. Family's off limits. That sort of thing.

Craig: You've talked about your re-election campaign. Let's fast forward to that. Let's talk a little bit about how that was different than your initial campaign, and some of the tactics and strategies that played into that.

Kim Bracey: We knew what worked the first time out. Our campaign strategist was immediately engaged again to… Oh, I didn't indicate that. Yeah. Limited knowledge on how this stuff is run, so you've got raise some money. I needed to pay for someone to help me develop this strategy through my words, through my eyes and what I wanted to accomplish. While it is a small city, it was a necessity.

I was running against several people the first time around. The second time around, with the campaign strategist engaged, next thing you know we have an opponent who happens to be the sitting President for City Counsel. Who happens to be an African-American woman. Did we have some shifting in the community? It concerned so many – that there's a division going on, that we're not as unified to really create change. There were lots of concerns from many in the community about this.

I had the same support. In the business community, the grassroots folks. We really didn't let up any momentum, none. We had carried out our first four years with energy and passion. We kept that up through the campaign as well, too. We went back to what we knew well. Knocking on doors, and sitting in people's living rooms having coffee chats. That's what were calling them. My mom arranged those. We had family members still engaged. It was still a fun experience. We won all but one ward this time. That's been a little bit interesting as well, too. That was the ward where my opponent lived.

Craig: You touched on something I want to revisit. You said that there were concerns in the community about the unity and the ability to get things done. One of the things that we run into a lot at the local level is the game of politics. You look at elections as a contest and a game, but really there are things happening in the election that have impacts in government. People forget that when it's all about mail pieces, and attacking, and radio ads, and things. There are things to consider as you’re saying things. Can you talk a little about how that re-election campaign affected your role as mayor, and your ability to get things done during that time?

Kim Bracey: To your point, many thought everything we were doing was an election piece or a way to be out there. "She's using our taxpayer time to get her message out.” The record definitely proved that was not the case, but it was something that was thrown out, number one.

Two, again, the person was a formidable opponent if you will, as the City Counsel's sitting President. Both sides of government have to work in the City of York to get things done. Here you have these two people who are also running against each other, that are still trying to move the city along in a positive way.

There was a natural strain. First of all, we're women. We're not going to fake it, okay? Two, again, it's a small town and somebody wants my job. What is that about? There's a human person behind these political figures, as much as we try to keep our face straight and the persona that we have this all together. These are human beings here. She and I ended up having to sit and talk and realized that, "Okay, we're doing what we have to do here. At the end of the day this is about what's best for the City of York, and we at least still have to work together and move this along.” It was very awkward.

Bigger picture, folks wanted to make sure the temperament in the community, the city, was going to be cordial. We have had our share of crazy, if you will. City Counsel meetings and things happening in our communit,y just like every other community. No one wanted that sort of rank or behaviors to be prevalent again in the City of York. There's much to be done and there's a lot of great things happening. Let's keep that happening.

Craig: It's very easy to lose sight of the reason that you're actually running for office, because you're running for office. It really is incumbent on the candidates to help people maintain that focus.

Let me switch to forward thinking.

I'm going to ask two questions and you can answer them in either order that you want. For our listeners that are kicking off their campaigns or thinking of running, maybe they haven't even committed to anything yet, is there a mistake that you might've made along that way that you were able to learn something from? The second question would be, is there a piece of advice that you would offer to those candidates?

Kim Bracey: It's probably the same. One in the same. The mistake is not listening as intently or as closely as you possibly can. The advice is to listen. As best as you can to everything.

It's only 11:00 here, yet. We still have a good day yet to get a couple of good mistakes in, and they happen every day. Case to support that, I had a meeting recently and we were trying to develop a list of folks who we can seek money from for a city project. It was a new member to this table, sitting with us, and she was one of the people I said, "Well what about that lady. Has anyone ever reached out to her yet?" And they pointed and said, "Mayor, she's sitting right next to you.” I heard her name, listened to it when I walked into the room, but I didn't. I just wanted to get in this meeting and start developing the list. You have to pay attention to the smallest details. That's probably the main advice.

You've got to make sure this is something that you can lift. As mayor, where you're the Chief Executive Officer and not some form of counsel mayor, you're in this 24 hours a day in many cases. You're probably the most recognizable face in the area, in the county. Folks come up to you all the time, your family has to be prepared for that. You've got to have thick skin, and in my case, a strong face connection. I know that's not politically correct, but you have to be grounded in something.

Craig: On the topic of listening, in these days listening is a monumental task. There's people talking, there's social media, there's news, there's all different ways to get and give information. How do you stay in the know on the pulse of what your community is?

Kim Bracey: That's interesting, because one of the things I had active while in the campaign mode was a Facebook account. While mayor, I do not. Our city has one, and there's active engagement there. If there's a professional social media account for me, it's Twitter. I do stay engaged with the US Conference of Mayors, of which I am a member, and other professional organizations that way. Obviously, I see and hear everything else on Twitter as well, too.

I have a Director of Community Relations and I have Town Hall meeting every quarter, in some part of the city. I'm out doing the things that mayors would do. That would come to a surprise, I'm sure, to your listeners. It's about everything from, in our schools reading to our kids, having open dialogue with them. To, at the market with the vendors listening to their concerns of how they're struggling to keep their stands afloat, if you will. You have to be there for the people, even on the days where you're like, "Oh, I just need a break.” There usually isn't a break, but I try to be as engaged as possible with our constituents and be on the founding board as well.

Craig: Let me take you again to forward thinking again. What's on the horizon for you? You entered office with a very specific, I don't want to say a mission, but a theme that included some missions. You've been able to have some success in getting some programs started. As mayor, and maybe a candidate for maybe a third term, what are you plans going forward?

Kim Bracey: Many people want to know that answer. I'm still trying to determine my next direction. There are no term limits here in our city and I could run again. We have a lot of great things happening right now and it seems a little awkward to not want to finish that, and I do. I'm still trying to determine that. There's definitely more that I would like to do as well, too. I can't say I have any desire to hold any other office, state seat, or anything like that. I am committed to my hometown and making it the best that it can be. Probably would do this before I would seek any other sort of office.

We have, as you indicated, I don't see any number, but some key things that we've worked on since I've been in the office, that I still want to see followed through. It has a lot to do with the blight and the appearance of our city. Even the poverty rate. We want to keep creating job opportunities for people. Introducing folks to new concepts. Opportunities that will assist them to have a better life. There's a lot of reuse that we're looking at with some of the buildings that we've determined to be blight. Then some land use that we're looking at instilling with some great housing too.

I'm having fun. I'm enjoying what we're doing right now. That's key, too. It is not always about the next election. It seldom is for me. I've got to enjoy what I'm doing to really, in my opinion, make an impact. To do it where people are also the benefactors. That's as forward as I want to go at this time, Craig, with it.

I think about the people that I am responsible to. Not only the taxpayers and constituents, but I have a Cabinet of great people who make me look good with the tremendous work that they do. Much like my predecessor, when he said he wasn't going to run again, he gave us a good little bit of notice and folks had a chance to adjust their lives. I want to make sure they are in this conversation should we decide to go a different direction.

Craig: That's a perfect answer. That's like that first re-election, as far as being able to get things done as such a vote of confidence, that you can move forward. You can tell, just by the way you talk about the initiatives that you're engaged in, the enthusiasm that you have. The voters are lucky to have you.

Kim Bracey: Thank you.

Craig: Mayor, where can anyone listening to this podcast find out more information about you or about York?

Kim Bracey: We do have a website in the City of York, it is yorkcity.org. My bio, previous speeches, things I've been engaged in and accomplished are located there as well. I indicated I'm on Twitter. It'd be a year in about 2 weeks. I did it my last State of the City, as of last April and I'm still there, @mayorbracey. See what we're doing and those sorts of things. Or, better yet, relocate to the City of York and buy a home and then I'll be your mayor.

Craig: That's the best answer yet.

Kim Bracey: I really appreciate this time, Craig.

Craig: Mayor, thank you so much for joining us today. I really enjoyed talking with you. I appreciate you taking some time to spend with us. I wish you the best of luck in all your political, personal endeavors going forward. I'm going to stay in touch. As soon as I sign off here, I'm going to go on Twitter and follow you.

Remember you can learn more about mayor Bracey. Connect with her on the York, Pennsylvania website which is www.yorkcity.org, or @mayorbracey on Twitter.

Mayor thank you again so much.

Kim Bracey: You're welcome. Thank you, Craig.

 

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