“Vision without execution is hallucination!”
This quote credited to American inventor Thomas Edison was part of the response to a question at the recent Wilmington Mayoral debate by Mike Purzycki. During the debate, which was focused on culture and the arts, moderators asked questions about ‘strategic plans,’ and candidates talked about ‘vision.’
Purzycki, the man who led the successful effort to transform the wasteland on the Christina River into the most vibrant corner of the city paused to reflect on the fact that the problem with Wilmington is not the vision or the plan but the failure to implement those plans and to effectively manage the city government. Purzycki mentioned that the candidates running for mayor have a combined 131 years as politicians working on behalf of the city, years in which the city has continued in steady decline to the point that a national publication labeled Wilmington, “Murder Town USA.”
Every week I receive an email from one of the campaigns where the candidate talks about “comprehensive plans” and “competing visions” amongst the various candidates. What seems to be missing from the resumes of most candidates is a track record demonstrating how they have turned vision into reality for a large and important project or organization. Of course the other element missing at the debates is the Mayor himself. It is disappointing and a bit strange that the leader of the city does not bother to show up to defend his record.
The City of Wilmington is a large and complex business consisting of over 1100 employees and a $250 million budget. But it is much more than a business – it is a home, it has life and a pulse that reflects the personalities and promises of its citizens. The mayor is also CEO of the city and must represent the community, first to the people who live here and pay the taxes, but also to Dover, Washington and sometimes beyond. The mayor must be able to engage directly with the business leaders and instill confidence that this will be a city that works and where workers can be safe. He must also be able to sell the city and persuade those business leaders to stay in and invest in the city.
No one in Delaware has demonstrated a greater aptitude for this particular assignment than Mike Purzycki. Over the past 20 years he has done what many thought was impossible and along the way added a billion in investment and 7000 jobs.
Wilmington has been struggling for years not just because it might lack a plan – it has lacked strong management and leadership. When you look at what has been accomplished with the Wilmington Riverfront these last 20 years it is clear that it took vision, but most importantly it took the kind of “execution” that Edison knew so well.