Gladewater welcomes first woman as mayor

Gladewater’s first female mayor-elect is ready to seize the momentum and get to work.
May 4 marked a community milestone a long time coming. It was also a long Election Day to cap a hard-fought campaign, and Brandy Flanagan identified plenty of opportunities and challenges along the way.
“I’m excited that we’ve crossed that barrier in Gladewater. It’s something that we needed to do,” Flanagan said. “I’m honored to be it and take it very humbly and seriously, to carry it well for future generations and to set the tone of what a female mayor in Gladewater looks like.”
“It’s a strong message demonstrating progress toward the equality and inclusiveness we want in our community and we want and need in our local government. For a lot of people, it just represents a shift toward more diversity in representation in key leadership for our city,” hopefully bringing new perspective and priorities to the table.
It’s a positive step forward, something to celebrate, but she admits some disappointment that the only proposed charter amendment to fail was an addition that would have noted the male pronouns in the charter were all-encompassing.
“We want to be an inclusive community and always be forward-thinking. We’re way past the days when women are not included in the founding documents of our cities and states and counties and country,” she said. “I’m hoping that with some rewording of that we can get it passed in the future.”
A bit mud-spattered after the campaign, Flanagan hopes her initial term as mayor will help the next election cycle be a bit less acrimonious.
“I honestly think for us to change that culture in our city, we’re going to have go with a middle ground, to be honest with you,” she said, making peace with critics and detractors while also holding them to task, “Not pretending everything is normal. These are friends and families and community members. These are people we have prayed with, we have prayed for, when hard times come,” yet an election season arrives and things turn cutthroat on rumor and lies.
“There are people in this country who have amazing ideas, but they will not step up into the political realm to get it done because they don’t want the slaying that comes along with it. We’re going to have to change that culture moving forward.”

Later this month – once the votes are canvassed, once the oath of office is administered, once Flanagan takes the center seat on the council dais – she has some key goals to keep, and build, the team’s momentum.
“One is to definitely keep us mission-focused in moving forward with the strategic plans that are in place,” Flanagan said. Infrastructure was a common theme in conversations throughout the campaign. It’s the biggest need of every city in America, she added, and streets, water and related issues remain at the forefront: “As we got out in the community and really conveyed the strategic plan that’s in place for our infrastructure, that really settled people and got people excited.”
As the first woman even to run for mayor in a 150-year-old community, Flanagan says residents also opened up about their desire for more diversity and representation in leadership roles throughout the city.
“Every spot on council, every spot on our boards is open to everyone. It goes to show you how engrained some of this stuff has become in our city culture, something that we’ve really got to overcome.”
Growth isn’t just about thriving businesses and an increasing population, Flanagan added.
“We’ve got to have some growth of some mindsets, that we don’t have token positions on our boards and in our leadership positions,” she said. “We want people who have the ideas and the solutions that our city needs to be able to thrive.
“Whether that is male/female, whether that is a person of color or anything else, it needs to be the people that have the solutions for the problems our city faces. Those people need to be on our boards and need to be in our leadership positions.”
Another key goal is enhancing the culture in the city and pulling everyone together – during and between elections .
“I think a lot of that’s going to come through the forums – it’s really important to me that we have town hall meetings. I want dialogue between our city leadership and citizens.”
Three minutes at the podium during the public comment portion of council sessions isn’t enough, Flanagan says, especially when the law restricts officials’ ability to engage and respond. She’s aiming for quarterly town hall meetings during her first year in office.
“The truth is, we’re not ever going to be able to move forward if everybody does not get on the team,” and Flanagan is angling to bring together citizens, city staffers, school leaders, chamber members, economic development stakeholders and others for the town’s benefit. “Everybody’s got to work together. We all have a part. It’s not ever on one person or one entity.”
Part of that group effort is bolstering local businesses, and the fulltime business consultant will bring those insights into the mix as well.
“I want to create thriving business districts in our city, and I want to work with the business owners and the community partners that we have to make Gladewater very business-friendly and a business-thriving city,” she said. That extends to all the community’s assets: “When you’re working with an organization, you don’t start adding things to the mix until you’ve already maximized what you have. It’s the same thing with a city – we’ve got to maximize what we already have.”
Help ensure Gladewater Municipal Airport is a fantastic facility, Flanagan said. Help make all the city’s parks great. Help ensure downtown stakeholders have everything they need to be successful.
“All these assets we already have, we’ve got to maximize. We need to make them the very best that we can.”
Cultivate excellence, she concluded, now and for the future.
“Another core goal I think we really need to work toward is developing a strong leadership development program for our city to develop the next generation of leaders.”


By James Draper

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