PDT Staff Writer
There is a phrase that has made the rounds for decades - “When you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Steve Sturgill, Portsmouth’s new president of City Council, says the city has to begin the process of moving forward.
“As the newly elected president, I have no fear of stepping forward and saying to, not only the Council, but to the people in this community, ‘we’re going to do something,’” Sturgill said. “The time for us, the pity party is over. We can no longer sit back and think of how things used to be in Portsmouth. Things are never going to be that way again.”
“In January of 2012 I took the oath of office to be the Sixth Ward Councilperson again. And I took it with a great deal of enthusiasm,” Sturgill said. “The five people that I would work with were all strangers to me. We all come from different parts of the city, different personal backgrounds, and we were all strangers. Over the course of the first couple of months of 2012, I tried to use whatever experiences I might have had in my other elected public official job, to give those people I sit with some kind of concept that things have to be different here. We can no longer do the way we have continued to do over the course of the last 10 to 12 years. We’ve made ourselves such a hole, I’m not sure we can climb out of.”
Sturgill said after four or five months he had contemplated, “maybe this is not the place for me at this time. Maybe there is nothing that can be done.”
Sturgill says he does not have that opinion now. He said, after a year on the job, he has learned some things about his colleagues.
“I have learned that this Council is learning to work with each other,” Sturgill said. “It hasn’t been easy. I think there are personality clashes on this Council that will make not only this year but the next several years it will give someone an opportunity to maybe step out front and be the leader of a group that really wants to have leadership.”
Sturgill said he believes the city has several opportunities to move forward.
“We have got to provide the leadership to this community,” Sturgill said. “We have to come out and take a stand on some very controversial issues. We’re going to have to look at some of the old ordinances that other Councils have approved, and see, if in fact, that is something that Council wants to take on.”
Sturgill said the current City Council cannot be responsible for the “negative actions of the last 10 or 12 years.”
“I would hope my five colleagues and I can turn the corner in the community to say changes have to be made. There has to be some hope and optimism. And all of this negativity in our community has to stop,” Sturgill said.
Sturgill said he sat in on another meeting last week where the comment was made that people have lost sight of what their federal officials are doing.
“I would make that even simpler,” Sturgill said. “I think our community, the city of Portsmouth, and it’s constituents, we’ve lost touch with what is going on. The city needs to put it’s best foot forward.”
Sturgill said that can only be accomplished by the Council leading by example at City Council meetings.
“As far as I’m concerned, the circus is over,” Sturgill said. “We will come to our Council chambers on a bi-monthly basis, and do the people’s business. We can no longer worry about the fact at this point that our finances are in bad shape. Yes, they are in bad shape, but we’re going to have to make decisions, and make those decisions based on priorities - what’s important to Council - what’s important to the community, and what can we do within the realm of developing our priorities within the city government that we now have.”
Sturgill was elected President of Council at the Jan. 14 City Council meeting, replacing John Haas who had been named to fill the unexpired term of City Solicitor Mike Jones.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.