By most accounts, the city of Meridian is a well-managed, efficiently run city and longtime Mayor Tammy de Weerd is a popular steward of the city trust. Meridian is on the right track.
So it makes sense to promote de Weerd’s chief of staff Robert Simison to the CEO position.
As could be expected of the person who has been the mayor’s chief of staff for the past 12 years, Simison demonstrates a deep level of understanding of the various and varied functions of city government, from zoning and densities to the sewer system and infrastructure financing.
Simison, for sure, is no slick, smooth-talking politician. He appears more at ease talking about levy rates than glad-handing at social events. His background includes a stint in Washington, D.C., helping to convert U.S. stock markets to the decimal system and working on the 2005 budget reconciliation package.
These are the types of qualities we feel will serve him well as mayor to keep the city running efficiently and smoothly.
During the campaign, he talked about his priorities of providing basic services of police, fire and parks. After making sure basic services are provided for, he recognizes transportation is a vital need, making it “easier to get from Point A to Point B,” as he stated in his candidate survey for the Idaho Statesman.
Simison also rightly recognizes that transportation and schools are the biggest challenges when trying to handle growth. Key to managing that, he says, is developing positive working relationships with Ada County Highway District, Idaho Transportation Department and the West Ada School District to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to growth. Having been chief of staff for the past 12 years, Simison will not have a learning curve on that front.
Internally, he is already well aware of city employees, department heads and elected officials. In this area, as well, he will hit the ground running.
We are also encouraged that Simison is amenable to differing housing sizes, lot sizes and densities but recognizes that where you put those densities is important, and he is sensitive to not overburdening the school system.
Simison is in favor of forming an auditorium district to provide a large-scale meeting place for such events as high school graduations and business gatherings.
We hope that Simison, if elected mayor, would be more proactive in being a part of the solution to public transportation valleywide, recognizing that many Meridian residents travel out of Meridian for work.
We would also like to see him continue to focus on downtown, and create an identity and character for Meridian, making downtown a place for residents to gather, shop and have dinner.
If there is a knock against Meridian, it is that there is no there there, that it’s a sleepy bedroom community. Some of that characterization is justified. Our hope is that Simison can develop into not just the nuts-and-bolts numbers guy who keeps the trains running on time, but that he can develop his own identity and set his own vision for the city.
During his interview with the Statesman editorial board, Simison said that when he announced he was running for mayor, he brought several ideas to de Weerd, who replied, “Where were all these ideas for the past 12 years?” To which he said, as her chief of staff, he was executing her ideas. As mayor, he would focus on executing his own ideas.
Now that he’s got the nuts and bolts down for running an efficient city, it’s time for Robert Simison to step up to the CEO role and execute the next bold vision for Meridian as its mayor.