Hyattsville Patch did one final formal interview with outgoing Mayor William Gardiner. Here's what he had to say about his time in office and Hyattsville's future.
Patch: What do you think is your greatest accomplishment over the past eight years as mayor?
WG: The city has improved in a number of areas, and it is hard to pick one. The commercial annexation and growth in the tax base--more than tripled since 2003--may have the biggest long-term positive financial impact. However, we have also partnered with [Prince George's] County and state to add parks and facilities (four new playgrounds, a dog park and a community garden and a skate park soon to be constructed), adopted a new personnel manual, implemented competitive compensation for staff, added several critical positions, and invested heavily in technology and infrastructure.
Patch: What do you think is the thing that you wish you could've done or done better as mayor?
WG: On the development side, I wish we had been successful in re-developing the WSSC site and incorporating the parking lot into Magruder Park. Also, I wish we had been successful in getting the YMCA to build a facility on the city [property] at 4307 Jefferson Street.
On policy issues, I wish we had moved more quickly on adopting a strategic plan and performance measurements, and I wish I could have convinced a majority of council to support a three ward system. Our council is too large (largest in MD), too expensive and elected by too few residents in too few competitive races. Three wards, with two council members per ward would strengthen the council and facilitate its policy work and relationship with staff.
Patch: If you could project out five years, where do you think Hyattsville will be?
WG: It really depends on council’s vision and ability to lead and empower staff and residents. If we control our operating costs, continue to improve our streets, parks and use technology to become more efficient, we will spur another round of investment along Baltimore Avenue and East West Highway, and development at the West Hyattsville Metro. Private investment in those areas will provide convenient services and amenities for residents, and tax revenue will fund improvements to our services and public spaces.
Patch: Some residents have criticized your leadership in terms of development--and changing the face of Hyattsville. Some may see that as good, or bad. What do you think?
WG: We have and should continue to protect neighborhoods, while attracting appropriate investment in the Metro station areas and our commercial districts. In most cases we have supported the highest quality development we could obtain, and the new housing, retail and office development has benefited the city. Residents in all parts of the city have better nearby options for services, restaurants and entertainment, and these developments generate far more revenue to pay for city services than they cost in services.
The city’s residential core has been stronger than its commercial areas for decades, but at times during the past two decades our residential core was at risk. The city had deferred infrastructure repairs, our tax base was flat for 10 years, our population stagnant, and our employees underpaid. Although we have challenges today, we are in a significantly better position in part because of the development that has occurred.
Patch: You've brought on a lot of business. What do you think about some of them closing and about some new ones coming on board? How will the city sustain that retail growth?
WG: It is sad to see local businesses close for any reason, and it can make it more difficult to attract additional businesses. I don’t know how much retail growth the area can support, but I believe one key is to develop interesting centers that attract clients from a larger area. We can have a different retail mix and character in our three commercial areas, and each can be successful. It is important for us to attract commercial office and other daytime uses to help support the retail as well.
Patch: What are your plans for the future?
WG: Nothing to report . . .