District Manager Richard Baier is making positive changes and leading by example

Richard Baier

He’s officially been on the job a month and to say that District Manager Richard Baier has hit the ground running truly would be a huge understatement.

For starters, Baier is emphasizing communication and transparency. When it comes to government, that’s a wonderful concept that all too often isn’t followed. But Baier clearly has shown that he believes in that approach and it’s something we – and Villagers – find quite refreshing.

Residents who use the District’s website, www.districtgov.org, also will notice improvements. The site clearly is more user-friendly – something that is extremely important when you’re trying to find answers to pertinent questions that affect your lifestyle here in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown. We applaud Baier and his staff for making those changes and we wouldn’t be surprised if more follow in the future.

But without a doubt, one of Baier’s best moves since taking over July 9 has been changing up the Welcome Wednesday program. He made a smart move by doing away with the actual Wednesday gathering that chewed up a whole bunch of staff time without attracting many residents. It was a formula that didn’t work and we applaud Baier for seeing that early on and pulling the plug.

Part of that solution – one we also applaud – was the decision to continue publishing the weekly online informational bulletin that went along with Welcome Wednesday. When announcing plans to change the program July 11, Baier pointed out that about 1,200 people read the weekly information on the District’s website. So he decided to stick with that portion of the Welcome Wednesday program to get “a bigger bang for our buck.”

Baier laid out a clear plan to reorganize the management structure at the District Office. He has recognized talents that might not have been completely utilized in the past. And he went the extra mile to make sure that every supervisor was up to speed on the changes.

Again, hurray for communication and transparency!

Here’s something else – from what we’ve noticed since Baier took the reins a month ago, no question or concern from a resident is too small. He gladly answers every inquiry and hands out his business cards every chance he gets. And from what we’ve heard from Villagers, his follow-throughs have been thorough and quite courteous, to say the least.

We certainly agree with that assessment when it comes to getting information, especially when it involved the sinkhole issue that’s plagued residents of McLawren Terrace in the Village of Calumet Grove since February. As you can imagine, we’ve asked some tough questions that no government leader would put on his list of fun things to answer. But day or night, whenever we needed information, Baier was there within minutes, providing information in a knowledgeable and friendly tone.

In case you’re not familiar with Baier, this isn’t his first rodeo in the world of government. He is the former assistant Sumter County administrator and public works director. And prior to joining Sumter County in September 2014, he served in Alexandria, Va., as the director of transportation and environmental services – a position where he supervised 212 employees and a $44.9-million annual operating budget.

Toss in the fact that he had about a year to work closely with former District Manager Janet Tutt before she retired in July, and it’s no doubt that he knows the workings of this community inside out. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s owned a home in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown since Aug. 1, 2014.

As we said earlier, we congratulate Baier on a job well done in his first month at the helm. His willingness to answer any question or address any issue, big or small, is exactly what a government official is supposed to do.