Lawrence Mayor Looks Toward a Positive Future
Writer / Matt Keating
Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier is still getting used to being called Mayor. To many people, he is still Steve.
“It has taken some getting used to,” he said. “I still like keeping things informal when I can. That’s just the way I am, and I prefer being called Steve. I’m more comfortable with that, but I’m adjusting to being called Mayor and appreciating the title and its responsibility.”
After 33 years as a teacher, coach and administrator for Lawrence Township Schools, Collier has spent the last six months as the new Mayor of Lawrence, and it is a role he has taken on with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
“I love Lawrence and always have,” he said in his office overlooking the entrance to Fort Harrison Park. “The number of great and talented people we have is amazing. It really is inspiring to live in a great place when you are taking on the role of mayor.”
This is what Mayor Collier had to say on the following topics as he reflected on his first six months in office and his vision for Lawrence:
On his long career in education:
“I had quite a bit of fun as a teacher and had a great time during my last school year. I was out of the classroom in the middle of my career for nearly 12 years. I stepped into a position at Lawrence North High School that was supposed to last six months and wound up lasting for a 12-year run. I was Home School Liaison for two years, Dean of Students for three years, Athletic Director for three years and an administrative assistant for a year and half. I spent 24 years coaching football, wrestling and baseball at Lawrence North.”
On becoming Mayor of Lawrence:
“I thought I was going to be retired, but sometimes the Good Lord has a plan for you. I was retired for six months when I was approached by my friend, Paul Ricketts, to run for a counselor position. We went to high school together. Being a teacher has good name recognition, but it would still be a whole new career. I saw it as an opportunity to dive in and work in municipal government. I was later considered to be a good choice for a mayoral candidate. It was a transition to go from being semi-retired to becoming essentially a ‘head coach’ again. I spent a lot of time talking about it with my wife, Chris (a retired teacher from Harrison Hill Elementary in Lawrence), and decided it would be a rewarding challenge.”
On his first six months in office:
“I began the transition in November, and what made the first days easier was having good people helping me. By the second week in December, I had my team in place. I’ve made some great choices in the selection of my staff. I selected David Hofmann (LPD) and Dino Batalis (LFD) to lead our Public Safety. We’ve developed strong relationships between our safety personnel and the community. We want to build citizen engagement, and education is the key to bringing the citizens of Lawrence and City Hall together.
“I also think Jason Fenwick and Jason Streeter have done a great job in our Controller’s Office. Julie Kukolla is my executive assistant. I have known her for years. I never thought I would be that guy who would be so busy that I needed someone to guide my daily schedule, but she has done an outstanding job as my gatekeeper. I’m impressed with Scott Salsbery’s leadership at utilities and believe his experience and institutional knowledge will pay dividends for the citizens of Lawrence.
“Cam Starnes and MaryJo Rothenbush lead our Economic Development with some innovative ideas, which is very exciting. I couldn’t have better people to lead the Department of Public Works than Bill Anthony and Dave Lotts, and as always, Eric Martin is doing a great job with the Parks Department.”
His vision for Lawrence:
“I want Lawrence to be recognized for all of its assets. We have an outstanding state park with Fort Harrison, beautiful terrain and homes along Fall Creek. Property tax caps will mean that we have to learn to do more with less. We have good ideas for quality economic development with plans to bring in more industry and a number of new companies. We want even more employees to settle in the city of Lawrence. We have bi-monthly meetings to listen to members of the Chamber of Commerce, local business owners, community organizations and members of the Common Council. To date, our ideas have been well received.
“We are not different from any other city of our size, and we are meeting with business leaders on how they can help. We are working to get processes in place that will make it easier for new business owners to start their enterprises. We want to rewrite many of our codes and practices to streamline the process. We have a business roundtable that is contributing ideas and plans to implement. We want to help large businesses expand and hire more employees. We would also like to see more hotels in Lawrence to host the large number of families of athletes that come to our parks for tournaments.”
On the Lawrence community following Principal Susan Jordan’s tragic death at Amy Beverland Elementary:
“It was so encouraging to see all of the different entities working together after Mrs. Jordan was tragically killed protecting her students. It was inspiring to see people come together to help the teachers, students, parents and community. It says a lot about the high quality of people we have living in Lawrence.”