As the new mayor of Mount Shasta, Jeffrey Collings wants to make it clear that his focus is on public service and promoting overall education, not on any list of personal priorities or goals for the city’s future.
“A mayor’s primary job is to set the tone at city council meetings,” Collings said. “The tone I want to set comes from approach and process. The approach is educational and informational. The process is inclusive consensus.”
Collings defined inclusive consensus as city council’s method of considering the variety of differing viewpoints expressed by citizens of Mount Shasta. “We represent everybody in this town, and sometimes groups disagree. We look for value among these differing opinions. It’s our job to take all aspects of a particular topic and develop creative solutions that incorporate as many pieces as possible,” he said.
Collings pointed to last year’s LED streetlight replacement project as an example of inclusive consensus.
“Everybody wanted to upgrade to LED lights to save money and reduce our carbon footprint,” he said. When people started raising concerns about the environmental impact of brighter lights, council investigated alternatives. Sample LED streetlights were set up for a trial period to allow public feedback. As a result, Collings said the city was able to save more money and satisfy public concerns while also meeting the initial objectives by purchasing 3,000 Kelvin instead of 4,000 Kelvin lights.
Citizen education and input
The major improvement Collings wants to emphasize in his year as Mount Shasta’s mayor is more citizen education. “I want more presentations, more information, more conversations,” he said. “If there’s divisive rhetoric on any particular topic, a lot of it has to do with lack of education on all sides of the issue.”
Collings has been serving on Mount Shasta City Council for three years. He said he decided to run for a seat at the encouragement of current council member Tim Stearns and former member Michael Murray.
“In that time, I’ve realized there’s a lot of complexity to these issues we’re facing, so we’re doing a lot of educational presentations” he said. “And it’s not that we need to educate the public. It’s not us versus them. It’s our job to collect data and present it to the public to get their feedback.”
This year’s very first city council meeting on Monday, Jan. 11 will include a public presentation on high speed fiber broadband. The final meeting of 2015 focused on an informational presentation of the city’s wastewater treatment plant improvement project, which Collings referred to as, “the largest single project this town has ever had.”
As far as connecting with citizens, Collings said he understands that people have very busy lives and can’t always attend meetings. He hopes videos of meetings will be available on the city website in the near future to make it easier for citizens to stay informed.
“Whenever I’m out shopping, walking, or biking around town I am constantly asking people for feedback,” he said, giving credit to council member Kathy Morter for actually going door-to-door in search of public input for their consideration.
On top of these efforts to maintain open dialogue with citizens, Collings said he’d like to devote a few minutes each meeting to explain how city council makes decisions.
In his 16 years living in Mount Shasta, Collings said he thinks he has a decent grasp on who the citizens of town are and what they want. “My top priorities are what the citizens’ top priorities are. It’s not about what I want or what any other mayor wants.”
“About 90% of the meetings I’ve had with people are about Crystal Geyser,” he said.
In addition to Crystal Geyser, the wastewater treatment plant, and continuing to pursue fiber broadband, Collings said hot topics include short-term housing rentals, a Prop 218 process for water rates and the overall declining population throughout south Siskiyou County.
After a divided vote denied lifting the ban on short-term rentals in R1 residential zones last October, council will re-visit the topic with a public hearing at the Jan. 11 meeting.
Although council members disagreed on the subject of short-term rentals, Collings said he’s pleased with the mutual respect and professionalism demonstrated by the group.
“This team has a strong level of diversity that aids in creative consensus solutions and helps us be inclusive,” he said. “Every member of council is a seasoned professional. The diversity in our backgrounds, from public forestry service, to finance, to law, to business, all comes together and works when we’re faced with complex problems,” he said.
Collings described his own professional background as “general business.”
“I’m not in politics, I’m in public service,” Collings concluded. “Better public service by all of us will occur when we all do a better job of sharing information and education.”