By Giselle Nieves
All around Rogers you can see change and growth. There are improvements being made to roads, new businesses being brought, more parks for people to enjoy. To get into more depth of what all these new additions mean and how are they going to make Rogers a better city, I asked Rogers city mayor Greg Hines of his input on this. Just as important, I wanted to get to know a little more about the mayor because some may not know him very well.
What made you have an interest in public service?
He was elected to student council on his campus. That experience is what really pushed him to be interested in public service.
When I was 22 I ran for the city council (Rogers) and started to serve in that capacity. Then a few years later I went to work for the city of Bentonville with law enforcement. I progressed an interest in high school and when I started to work in the work force I decided to seek that path.
What helped you prepare for this job?
There isn’t a specific degree path or level of education that will prepare you for a job like this, but I point back to the fact that I decided to go work in law enforcement and started as a uniform straight officer while I was working on the council for Rogers. I was able to see the different perspective of working as a city employee and watching the way management was pushing down information and policy and also got to be part of shaping policy on the other side. So those experiences definitely prepared me to be able to do this.
What are some responsibilities you face in your job?
We manage over 450 employees and 19 different departments, so I have both of those roles to manage plus the operation of 43 million dollar budget and employees. I’m also a ceremonial guy, so I give out public speeches and go to social functions.
What do you people misinterpret about being a mayor?
I think there is a lot of misconception of what we do and what I do on a daily basis. I think people have a perception that the mayor is just kinda there, sitting and waiting for them to call and complain about their trash not getting picked up. I’m a normal guy with a really big job, and we’re trying to create jobs, keep businesses open, and trying to make sure that we have good roads, that we’re safe. I have a very busy schedule and it stays full.
What are the obstacles that you face everyday?
The first thing that I would point to is that it’s a pretty lonely job. You think about any other jobs and in most cases you got peers and have a support network. When you get to the top of an organization, that’s not the case. Also, you have to overcome this negativism because primarily my phones aren’t ringing off the wall from the people in the community that are satisfied and happy. Typically all you hear from are the people that are complaining about something and so balancing that out is always a challenge. Also just balancing out the daily weight on your shoulders and the responsibility that I’ve been given to make good decisions, and putting the people of Rogers first and their tax dollars, making sure we balance out how we spend that money for the best service as possible.
How do you help address and help people’s problems?
We got 19 departments and so there’s different departments heads that work for me, and then I have and administrative assistant, Carey. We’re pretty much able to solve any concern or issue that some will have. Primarily any problem that folks have can be solved by a department head or Carey, so I am very careful to make sure that I let them determine what to do until they’ve exhausted their ability. Then, at that point, I am happy to meet with anyone and we’ll come up with a compromise. That’s the other part of this job is that you have to understand that not everyone is going to like you, and not everyone is going to be happy with you, so you just have to stay focused on doing the right thing, the right time, the right way.
Next, I began to ask him some questions relating to the growth in Rogers:
What are some current projects in progress right now?
We have over a hundred million dollars worth of street improvements that will all be completed in the next 3 or 4 years. We are just completing our parks expansion. The soccer complex will open on Veterans Day and the bike park will be opening in early November. The lake Atlanta project is under way, and it will be done in about a year from now. All combined, those projects represent a hundred and 30 or 40 million dollars worth of public improvement and it’s big deal and something we are very proud of. That public investment is what spurs private investment. When you think about how do we want to grow the job market, what kind of jobs do we want to track, what kind of people to we want to attract to the area for employment purposes. In a community if we don’t invest all of these quality life amenities such as parks, trails, and outdoor living, our private companies won’t be able to attract the kind of people that will want to be your neighbors.
Where is the city’s focus on making improvements?
For a long time, all the money was mainly or Southwest Rogers in the retail market as well as residential, so we got behind in on street construction because of the fast pace growth of that area. We’re trying now to recognize to the value of balancing those public investment dollars across the whole city. We can’t let one portion of the city to suffer for the benefit of another.
How will this growth affect Rogers?
As we continue to grow, I think we can all agree that most of our growth is what you can consider very positive growth. Since 1990 there’s been 25 people a day moving in Northwest Arkansas. That is a tremendous amount of growth in avery short period of time. Since I came into office, crime rates are down, unemployment’s down, sales tax collections are up, so all those positive indicators have been on the rise since 2011 when I came into office. I can say that our growth is very healthy.
He also gave a comment on what he wants look back on in a few years:
Twenty five years from now when I’m sitting on the front porch with my grandchildren and they say, “Popa well why’d you do it this way?” I want to be able to give them an answer not an excuse.
Thanks to the mayor, city, and people’s good effort to make Rogers better, we are able to be proud of our city.