Q&A with Newark Mayor Polly Sierer
Vance Funk a tough act to follow.
DT: After more than nine years in office, Vance Funk is a tough act to follow. What did you learn from the former mayor?
PS: Vance’s success is based on his passion and love for Newark. Whether he was out there picking up trash on Main Street, showing his support to nonprofit groups, serving on various nonprofit boards, or championing community events like the Taste of Newark, Vance was engaged with the community and interacting with the citizens of Newark.
Like Vance, I think it’s important to lead by example. As mayor of Newark, I feel that I’m the face of the city. It is important that I continue to actively engage in volunteer work and actively contribute to the success of many of our city’s nonprofit groups. This will inspire others to do so as well.
If I’m out there attending and participating in city events designed to gather public input on issues, others will be inspired to do so as well. If I’m willing to meet with people who have concerns or disagreements with the direction of the city, and show that I’m willing to listen to their concerns, these same people are willing to help be part of the solutions.
DT: You are stuck in an elevator and getting to know your fellow passengers. What’s your elevator speech on what makes downtown Newark a great place?
PS: Downtown Newark is a bustling college town, where new faces, historic places, cultural destinations and eclectic businesses and restaurants provide our community and its visitors with diverse experiences.
DT: When you took office in 2013, you said you wanted to promote a sense of healing. How is that going?
PS: In my first four months of office, I have made a concerted effort to reach out to concerned members of the community. I made the promise to reach out to each of the candidates as a means of starting the healing process. I kept that promise and met with the candidates and discussed issues and concerns.
It is important that we work together. I think it was a positive step and hopefully the beginning of a dialogue that begins to move us together rather than apart.
On an average day, I get 50 to 75 emails and phone calls. Whether it’s responding to emails, phone calls or meeting with concerned citizens or business leaders, I am trying to be a good listener and a visible presence in the community.
On any given day, you will likely find me meeting with someone from the community in one of our restaurants or coffee shops, discussing ideas or issues.
I certainly have found that most people are reasonable, caring and compassionate, and they genuinely want to be part of the solution.
Whether you agree with me or not, I find that when people get to know me on a personal basis, they realize that we both want what’s best for Newark and now we have a basis for positive discussions and an opportunity to develop solutions.
DT: The University of Delaware is the biggest game in town. What’s your strategy for promoting a win-win relationship between the city and UD?
PS: The City of Newark and the University of Delaware continue to work together on many aspects of our community. In fact, there is much more collaboration and communication than we realize and are aware of. We need to work on sharing the positive collaboration more effectively and more frequently with our community. Developing relationships and partnering on activities and events is extremely important. The Government Relations Department at UD has been most helpful in this process. We are in the beginning stages of brainstorming the re-establishment of the Town and Gown Committee, which will include community involvement and will be a positive step for both the city and UD.
DT: You have a strong background in horticulture and have worked at Longwood Gardens. How do you see plants and green spaces enhancing downtown Newark?
PS: Beauty is an important part of quality of life. I will be working on adding more beauty to our Main Street and South Main Street. This includes plants, flowers and holiday displays. I am a native plant lover, so natives need to be a part of our focus. I look forward to collaborating and partnering with our merchants, as well as the University of Delaware, Newark High School and volunteers in our community who have a passion for horticulture and gardening.