WARNER ROBINS -- The city is a business that feeds off the Department of Defense; therefore, it needs a leader who has managed a similar business.
That’s how Mike Brashear, former councilman and mayoral candidate, sees it.
“This city is a for-profit business, not a not-for-profit,” he said. “I’ve spent my entire life working directly with the military organizations, so I have an insider’s view if you will.”
Brashear, 65, was born and raised in Florida. After high school, he spent four years in the Air Force and then attended college. Then, his daughter fell ill. With medical bills stacking up, Brashear left school and returned to the Air Force for another four years.
In 1973, Brashear left the service and went to work for Northrop Corp. in the electronic warfare unit.
“I’ve done just about every job there is in the aerospace business side of things, from program management to marketing to business development to operations management and actually running the production line and the engineering department,” Brashear said.
Brashear worked for a few companies in his private aerospace career. Twice, assignments brought him to Warner Robins temporarily. He and his wife, Becky, enjoyed the city so much, they moved here permanently in 1998. Two years ago, Brashear retired and took up public service.
In 2011, Brashear won the Post 4 City Council seat. He previously held the seat for three months in 2008 when council appointed him before a special election to fill an unexpired term.
Brashear resigned early from his four-year term to run for mayor. He said his seat is on a rotation that would have required him to wait four more years to run as mayor, and the city needed him to lead in a time when talk of a Base Realignment and Closure Commission has been discussed on the federal level.
But he said he’ll finish a term as mayor, and maybe more, because, “I’m committed. I’m trying to provide a deeper service to my community.”
Public service career
Brashear said his experience in aerospace gives him a unique perspective on how to run the city next door to Robins Air Force Base. He has visited other bases, participated in Department of Defense meetings in Washington, and was mentored by a man who was on the last BRAC Commission.
Eddy Wiggins, a business owner who is not openly supporting any candidate, said he knows Brashear from attending Second Baptist Church.
“He’s a little longer in the tooth, like me,” Wiggins said, “and has a little bit of experience behind him. He’s a family guy and a good guy.”
In Brashear’s first full year on council, he calmly presented ideas and pushed for council members to meet in smaller groups outside of regular council meetings to ensure they were all up to speed. It’s a practice that’s generally questioned by open meetings experts, who say state law isn’t explicit about whether small group meetings are legal.
But in the past six months, he developed a stronger voice in pushing for certain projects, at times clashing with Mayor Chuck Shaheen.
The most recent instance was when Brashear took issue with Shaheen changing the type of plane that would be displayed along Interstate 75. For two years, it was going to be an F-15, but Shaheen said Air Force personnel said it would be logistically easier to move a smaller T-33 to the interstate. Brashear and others felt the T-33 wasn’t representative of the work at Robins.
Brashear said council is made up of seven passionate people who are going to see the logistics of things differently from time to time. But it’s the ability to communicate and see the bigger picture that matters.
“If you don’t have to be right all the time, it’s really easier to get people to work with you,” Brashear said.
He said if elected mayor, he would use his business experience to manage council and department directors to work toward a common goal. It would begin with a few planning sessions to decide that goal or goals.
Those goals would be laid out in three-year, five-year and 10-year plans. Each would also include a correlating budget. Part of the planning process would include deciding what regional projects the city could tackle, Brashear said.
Brashear said the mayor’s role is to carry out whatever plans City Council approves, just as a CEO in corporate America is required to fulfill the expectations of a board of directors. In corporate America, failure to carry out directives means the CEO is fired.
“Within mayor and council, that’s not the case,” Brashear said. “Council can vote for something, and the mayor can arbitrarily decide, ‘No, that’s not what I’m going to do.’ And there’s no recourse to that.”
But the city is a for-profit business, Brashear said, and should be run as such. It has a $70 million budget, half of which is from enterprise funds. Brashear said in his first year he would construct a budget from the ground up, instead of working from the previous year’s figures as the city has done for years. It’s a process that should be repeated every three to five years, Brashear said.
On the issues
One of Brashear’s top issues is transparency. As mayor, he wants to create a digital dashboard on the city’s website that would give a detailed picture of the city. It would include regular updates on the city’s budget and projects, as well as calendars for the mayor, council members and directors.
He also wants to assign each department to a council member, so that council member can intelligently update the rest of City Council during meetings.
“When everyone is on the same sheet of music, you can make a much better song,” Brashear said. “This is not rocket science. It’s management 101.”
On public safety, Brashear said he met with Police Chief Brett Evans recently to find out how to improve recruitment and retention, two problems council has discussed. One idea was an incentive program that may pay for education and living expenses for a given period. If the officer left before his contract was up, he’d have to pay the city back.
“It’s not unusual that companies do that, so it shouldn’t be unusual that we should be able to offer some of those things,” Brashear said, adding the program could be offered to other departments that need help recruiting the best candidates.
The fire department is in good shape staff-wise, Brashear said, but needs the new fire station council is working to construct.
On recreation, Brashear said he’s proud of the progress he and council have made this year with the new sports complex location and plans for Walker’s Pond. But better upkeep of current parks and more parks on the west side of town are needed. He suggested new planning and zoning requirements that require developers to include green space in their projects.
The city must also work toward redevelopment of the city’s north side -- which the sports complex on North Houston Road may kick-start -- and public transportation. Brashear hopes to work with a Middle Georgia nonprofit on a paratransit service before looking into a regular bus route system.
“The thing with metro transit authorities is they are major money losers,” he said.
Brashear previously said he’d seek just one term as mayor but has since said “that may not be enough.”
“Let’s try to accomplish what we can, and then make a determination at that time,” Brashear said. Then, he joked, “The city may be sick and tired of me by then.”
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.