Archive for Thursday, March 4, 2004

City administrator in office

Cushing, Okla., native brings ‘smart growth’ philosophy to new role in Basehor

March 4, 2004

It doesn't take long for someone to realize much of Basehor is divided into two camps: pro- and anti-growth. Count new city administrator David Fuqua in the former category but with a catch.

"There is a saying I like to remember, 'all progress takes change but not all change is progress,'" Fuqua said during an interview this week. "It's my job and the job of the City Council to make sure the right kind of change happens here in Basehor. I call it smart growth."

On Monday, Fuqua, a Cushing, Okla., native, began his tenure as the first city administrator in Basehor government history. The Basehor City Council earmarked Fuqua for the position during a national search, which produced a field of 50 to 60 candidates.

Fuqua, 44, has 10 years experience in city management. He has worked in the towns of Cordell, Wewoka, Drumright and Walters, all Oklahoma cities comparable in size to Basehor.

However, his new home has an advantage over those towns, he said.

"I haven't seen one junky house yet," Fuqua said. "It looks like a good town, a nice, safe town that good families would want to live and raise their kids in."

But, much like an artist looking at an unfinished painting, Fuqua sees where Basehor is and where it could be in the future with the proper management and coordination.

"This is a really good opportunity to write Basehor's future and help make it the kind of town people want it to be," he said.

For a town with no grocery store and just one gasoline station, a high emphasis on promoting economic development is paramount to the city's long-term prosperity, the new city administrator said.

"The more businesses we have the more revenue the city is going to have," Fuqua said. "What that means is less taxes citizens are going to have to pay on their property. We need the right kind of businesses, though. I'm not talking about pawn shops or something like that."

Attracting good business shouldn't be a problem for Basehor because of its location, he added.

"Just the location of (the city) alone," he said. "It seems like its 20 minutes away from everything. Good people don't want to move to a trashy town and neither do good businesses."

Fuqua said he isn't interested in ushering in an era of big government for Basehor. The input of residents is important in determining what businesses the city needs to compliment the community, he said.

"Sure, people should be involved in it," he said. "I mean, it's their town."

Because Monday was his first day, Fuqua is busy getting up to speed on issues facing the city. On this day, in addition to meeting with city staff and department heads, he was exploring the availability of grants to help fund a street renovation project for 147th Street.

The street services an industrial park and gives residents access to the Falcon Lakes residential area and golf course. In city circles, the street is considered a valuable tool for future development.

Exploring ways to fund the 147th Street renovation project is an example of why the city hired a full-time professional administrator. The burden of the project -- estimated at a cost of approximately $683,000 -- could be lessened on city coffers by obtaining state or federal grant money.

Fuqua said he couldn't promise Basehor would acquire a windfall of grants, but he would work as hard as he could to try and attain them.

Another area expected to make more than just an appearance on the city administrator's radar is the development of a downtown district. In recent weeks, members of the City Council and Planning Commission have discussed the best location for a downtown area, and it appears the city has focused on revitalizing and developing areas along 155th Street.

The city has a rough plan in place for developing along 155th Street, a plan which includes the development of a centerpiece parkway which connects areas north and south of the city to 155th Street.

Fuqua said it was important the city completed preliminary work for its desired downtown.

"If it was left alone, it probably would have developed along the highway," Fuqua said. "That would have been the natural course of it."

Fuqua said he looks forward to his tenure in Basehor, a city he hopes to call his permanent home for the foreseeable future. His previous work experience in the four other municipalities has helped prepare him for his job in Basehor, he said.

"I'm looking for a home," Fuqua said. "Five places is enough."

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