Managing Just Fine, Randy Wetmore Guides City
At one time, Randy Wetmore and his dad, Al Wetmore, were the only father-son team of city managers in the state of Kansas. Father Al spent 30+ years as city manager for Herrington, Kansas. For the last 11 years he was there, both he and Randy served as civic leaders in the state.
“I followed him into city work,” Wetmore said. “I guess I always admired the role my dad played in the city’s administration.”
Born in Connecticut, but reared in Kansas as the only child of Al and Pat Wetmore, both now deceased, Wetmore holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology & Sociology from Emporia State University and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Kansas.
When he graduated in 1980, Wetmore took a job as Assistant to the City Manager of Yankton, South Dakota. Since then, he has served cities in Kansas, Oregon and Iowa. The only time he has worked in the South is when he served as Assistant City Administrator, then Deputy City Manager in Franklin, Tennessee.
“We like it here. There’s the weather, and the people are friendlier,” said Wetmore. “We find that people think the place where they live is special. We were attracted to Statesboro because of the amenities not shared by other cities, such as Georgia Southern University. The University adds a flavor not generally found in cities of this size.”
Since arriving last fall, Wetmore has been busy assessing the city’s strengths and weaknesses and working on a Strategic Plan that was started in February of this year.
“We have surveyed the residents of Statesboro to find out what amenities they’d like to see in the city. We have consultants looking at the results who will gather and compile the responses to the surveys,” said Wetmore. “They should be finished by late summer or early fall and they will then be able to give us some good information about what folks want in their city.
“So far, the written surveys that have been turned into City Hall show that adding more parks is a popular request, along with adding more sidewalks to the City’s landscape,” Wetmore said. “Those are early indications of what our residents would like to see the City do. We appreciate all the responses we have received. It’s great to see people participating in planning for the future of Statesboro.”
Along the way, Wetmore has found that most residents want their cities to be the best they can be. “I have found that every town is different, but they all want to give back and make a difference,” he said.
Wetmore believes Statesboro already has some of the features other cities of this size envy such as a successful Arts Center downtown and events like First Friday. “The arts are important in a general sense. You get a different feel for space and they make you think,” said Wetmore. “In Des Moines there is a sculpture park that is the size of a city block. Features like that make for a vibrant community that’s attractive to visitors, investors, and residents,” said Wetmore.
Making a difference is the thing that motivates Wetmore to face the challenges of being responsible for 35,000 residents in a town like Statesboro. He keeps on hand a copy of a famous quote entitled “The Man in the Arena” from Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizen in a Republic” speech delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910 (sidebar). For Wetmore, it’s about engaging in the work, taking some risks, and moving forward to make a positive difference.
“We all take it for granted, but people work hard to make our town the best it can be,” said Wetmore. “I have found that the employees at the City of Statesboro truly care about making this town the best. They look for ways to make things better. I find it in all departments: Police, Fire, Waste Management, and Water/Sewer.”
Wetmore is also committed to working with the Mayor and City Council on improvements to the Blue Mile. “I can’t wait to see what the Foundation comes up with and how Council wants to see it develop over time,” said Wetmore. “I think with the TAD there will be some assistance, and we hope to form a TAD advisory committee made up of people who can help us figure out good projects.”
Wetmore’s career in public service spans 38 years. This month, he and wife Andrea (Andy), will celebrate 39 years of marriage. They have two children, Stewart and Stacy, who both live in Indiana. Stewart works for Eli Lily and holds both a PharmD and an MBA. Daughter Stacy graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Cognitive Psychology and is currently an instructor at Butler University. The Wetmore’s have two grandchildren, Landon and Ashlyn.
“I think we will retire in Statesboro,” said Wetmore. “Once you move nine times, it is tough to move again.”
During his spare time, Wetmore likes to read Sapiens Mysteries and books by John Grisham and James Michener.
Two years ago he started doing abstract art as stress reliever.
“I just paint as a way to relax,” said Wetmore. “I will take a credit card or palette knife and just spread the paint across the canvas. If you look at any given piece, you will likely see layers and layers of paint.”
He describes himself as a “plain eater” who prefers cheeseburgers to foie gras. He walks two to four times a week and likes to play an occasional round of golf.
“I’m not that great at golf,” said Wetmore. “My handicap is putting the clubs in my hand!”
Wetmore admits to recently not having a lot of time to enjoy a long game of golf. He is busy making plans to move Statesboro to the next level.
“Our greatest challenge is trying to provide a high level of public service and to make sure everyone is on board with our resources to meet all expectations,” he said.
“When you’re a city like Statesboro, the key to success is everyone working together. We aren’t the suburb of a larger city where we can acquire added resources; we stand alone. We don’t have anyone to lean on. We’ve got to make it work and be strong by ourselves,” Wetmore added.
“I think for the most part, Statesboro is a progressive city, but cities are always evolving – cycles of change. From the City’s standpoint, we’re currently moving forward to make things better for everyone.”