Q&A with Rebecca Tydings

January 16, 2013 

City of Residence: Centerville

Occupation: Centerville City Attorney

QUESTION: How long have you been Centerville’s city attorney?

ANSWER: My first day was April 30, 2003, the day they did ribbon cutting for the new city hall building, so it’s right at 10 years. I enjoy it, there’s never a dull moment.

QUESTION: What are the duties of a city attorney?

ANSWER: They differ depending on the size of the city and its legal staff. Here, I’m the whole legal department. I advise mayor and council, draft ordinances, review contracts, work with the Municipal Court, am involved with personnel matters, advise various city departments including the police department, I’m involved in areas with the city marshal and deal with zoning and city inspections, to name a few things. At city hall we all wear lots of hats and work very cooperatively to come up with the best plans, solutions and ideas for the city.

QUESTION: Alongside your work with the city, you’re heavily involved with the Georgia Municipal Association. Briefly, what is GMA?

ANSWER: It’s Georgia cities’ largest organized proponent before the legislature. It deals with all things having to do with cities across the state and nation. It has a large lobbying component and serves and assists cities through training programs, financial services and a whole host of other services.

QUESTION: What is your role with GMA?

ANSWER: I became involved with GMA right after coming to work here and have had an active interest ever since. This year I’m president of the city attorney’s section of GMA. I’m involved with matters that come up before the committee and presided over the city attorney training day in Athens and will do the same in June at the training day at the GMA convention.

QUESTION: What got you interested?

ANSWER: Colleagues in the county and area municipalities reached out to me and encouraged me from the start to be involved. My initial interest was in training opportunities. In addition to the GMA, there is also IMLA, the International Municipal Lawyers Association. One of the biggest benefits is the opportunity to take part in a list server comprised of city attorneys and be able to ask questions as well as contribute answers. There are questions about law, contracts, about what to do and not to do and even whether or not someone may have heard of a particular company or not and what their products or service might be like.

QUESTION: Do you have regular contact with local county and city attorneys?

ANSWER: Fortunately, we’re a very tight-knit group and try to meet once a quarter. We call and e-mail each other regularly and help each other out. Jim Elliot of Warner Robins has been very involved through the years with the legal staff of GMA and actually created the bridge for me to get involved that led to my doing what I’m doing this year.

QUESTION: The role increases your work load but sounds like it benefits Centerville and other cities.

ANSWER: You make a conscience decision to do everything you can to do the very best you can and not just mark time. My value system says I need to do the best I can. I like to make a difference and I feel I am here. That means a lot to me.

QUESTION: What’s been your proudest accomplishment?

ANSWER: There have been many things, but I would have to say it’s that the city has not been successfully sued in 10 years. We’ve gone to mediation regarding a project and came to an agreement over a matter, but never successfully sued. Now it’s important to understand I’m not saying that bragging we’ve won every case. The important thing about it is that we’re trying to do things right in the first place and not end up in court. We won’t be bullied or frightened, but still we try not to put ourselves in a position where we’re at odds with people.

QUESTION: Seems a good philosophy.

ANSWER: I’ve taken two rules into every job I’ve had. One is treat people the way you want to be treated--the Golden Rule. Two is don’t lie to any person for any reason at any time. I also tell people all the time it doesn’t cost anything to be nice. There are so many public service entities that seem to be unpleasant to people, but our role in the city is customer service and our customers are citizens. Often people call really upset. It doesn’t take so much just to say I’m sorry you’re upset, let’s see what we can do. I’m very clear I represent the city and its officials, but it’s not my job to fight with people. It’s my job to bridge the gap and find solutions.

Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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