By William C. Singleton III
New Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato had his eye on the top spot in city government even while he served as the city’s operations fire chief and fire marshal.
“I always knew I wanted to run for the mayor of Hoover,” he said. “I felt like I was an ambassador for Hoover, but I was in the Fire Department. I love telling people about our city and all the great things about it.”
Brocato, 64, who has retired from the city’s Fire Department, now gets to tell all the great things about Hoover on a full-time basis. But he also gets to work on the things that aren’t so great.
Brocato and five newly elected council members were sworn into office Nov. 7. Brocato said he’s ready to hit the ground running.
Already, he has reached out to Hoover school Superintendent Kathy Murphy to let her know that the new administration is committed to helping the school system solve its funding problem. With increasing enrollment, growing operational costs and projected budget deficits, the school system finds itself trimming personnel and pulling from reserves to make revenue match expenditures. Ultimately, the school system will have to come up with more money – and that’s where Brocato and the City Council come in.
Brocato defeated former Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey partly based on the resentment citizens had about the previous mayor and council not doing enough to fund city schools. Brocato made supporting the city school system one of his most important issues as mayor.
“I’ve made a commitment to support the school but so have the individuals that ran for City Council, not just financially supporting the schools but being a champion for the schools, being a cheerleader for our schools,” he said.
That doesn’t necessarily mean increasing taxes for schools, Brocato said.
“We’re not interested in raising taxes or doing things like that. We’re more interested in running good government, making sure that we are efficient, making sure we’re not reduplicating services out there and seeing if we can do some cost-sharing things with the school system,” he said. “We want to look at everything across the board to see where we have funds that we can shift over to the school system without compromising city services. And I believe we have those funds to do that.”
Murphy said she appreciates the new mayor’s attitude about schools and looks forward to working with him and the new council. “We look forward to collaborating with them and supporting them. It’s about the city of Hoover and the Hoover City Schools. We’ll just find ways to support each other, and I’m just excited about that,” said the city school superintendent.
Brocato and the new council already have begun to tackle the issue of sprawling growth with the city. They have begun setting the stage for a master development plan for the city.
“We really never had a master plan in Hoover,” Brocato said. “We’ve always been a city that has developed more along the lines of, whoever got here first built it. We have a beautiful city, but there are some things that we can do better. We’re not looking to stifle our growth but we’re looking to manage our growth.” The mayor and council have already started talking to professionals to help them develop a master plan, he said.
The new mayor said he would like to see more science and technology firms and businesses to counterbalance the retail segment.
“We’ve got a great retail economy, and we certainly appreciate all our retailers,” he said, “But we also want to start moving quickly toward diversifying our economy.”
As the first order of business aside from filling appointments to vacant and expiring seats on boards and positions, the council and mayor need to adopt the city’s 2016-2017 operating budget.
“The previous council and mayor, they were gracious enough to not pass the budget while they were in office so that’s something we’re focusing on right now is getting a new budget together,” he said. The mayor said he anticipates the budget being completed in the next 30 to 45 days.
Aside from the daily grind of government, Brocato said he expects to spend time “in the field” meeting residents and businesses and being the ambassador he envisioned himself being before he became mayor.
“I want to be the type mayor in the field going to visit our businesses, our citizens – just spending time learning about the city and learning each and every day how we can make improvements.”