Mike Will is out; oh Mike, we hardly knew ye. You came and left so quickly.
Who were you? But one thing we do know is, we think we liked you, I think!
We really did like you at least a little; or maybe we simply liked what we thought you were, or what we thought you were going to become, and do for us.
We did, however, like your freshness. It was original and something we had not seen around here in a long time. We liked your energy. For a brief shining moment it felt like Camelot in this town.
Just a little bit, and just for a moment, but nevertheless there was a feeling that progress could actually be.
We liked what we perceived as your aloofness. Even though we knew you were a part of the power structure -- the old boys' club -- somehow you were able to come across as being with them, but not a part of them. That alone was brilliant. It was absolutely priceless. Of course they did not think so. The dichotomy was awesome, so avant garde, so cutting edge!
Mike Will ruled like a visionary. Did I say rule? I meant to say he led us like he was a visionary. There was something poetic about how he was able to elucidate his vision. We felt it even when we were unable to see it. Although we were unable to verbalize it or articulate it, we could still feel there was a possibility for change in this town. We felt, for the first time in a long time, we were being given directions for a future filled with promise and probability.
He had been a great worker back in the day when he held lesser positions. He followed all the rules. He was the model subservient when he served as economic director and assistant city manager, and we just knew, once he got into the top seat , that he would be a great leader.
Yes, he was young and brash. Yes his personality had all the A-type characteristics, a virtual workaholic. A real work horse, he was. Will was the living epitome of law 20 of Robert Greene's "48 Laws of Power." He was independent. He mastered others by playing them against each other as they pursued him. He committed to no one, but was courted by all. I even talked to him once. By staying aloof he amassed power that actually came from others' frustrated desire to be in a relationship with him. He gave all hope but never much satisfaction. It was in his refusal to commit that allowed him to always remain the object of their desire. Yes, he incurred their anger because of his evasiveness, but ironically, at the same time, he engendered a special kind of respect out of that anger.
Mike, you stirred the pot. You excited us. You knew how to put yourself in the middle of competing powers, always getting just what you wanted. You lured us all with the promise of help which you gave to no one completely. You became no man's lackey. You had the ability to keep yourself free from the emotional stuff that normally would draw others into entanglements, shady alliances and draining situations. When we wanted you to be visible, you evaded our need for celebrity -- no public appearances, no press conferences, no courting the paparazzi, no return calls, no interviews, just work, work and more work. When we needed you to be vocal, you favored us with your trademark isolation and silence. I think you forget we need gods we can touch and talk with; we need someone we can argue with and someone who we can blame, so they can turn around and console us.
But we will admit, though you were at times untouchable, you did do good work for us. We will never forget that the $3 million grant you secured for the Paper District project. And you did clean up many environmentally contaminated areas in our community. You brought in the help for downtown revitalization, just to name a few things. And you did give us a strategic plan, something we should have had years ago -- actually decades ago.
I personally never saw any vengeance on your part. I don't care what they said. I never saw any ill will or ill intent. I didn't even see anything remotely improper. What I did see was an energy we have not seen in a city manager. I saw a progressive, youthful vision for a city that is crumbling, from a guy who had been given a gift for business, finances, planning and administration. Yes, there was probably a tinge of arrogance and independence that, if not well balanced, can always lead to something lethal. I also saw a struggle for power and privilege -- not by Will, but by those who wanted his attention and the privilege of his company, and the assurance of his subservience.
Last year I wrote that, if we had a mayor type of government rather than a city manager type, Mike Will would probably make a great mayor. I think therein lay the problem. You were hired in as a city manager, but somewhere along the way, in your mind at least, you became our mayor.