(BEDFORD) – Bedford Mayor Shawna Girgis reflected on the last 12 years, and her three terms serving as Bedford’s Mayor.
Girgis spoke about the struggles when she first started, the accomplishments, and the disappointments through her tenure as Mayor.
“Sometimes what is going on in your life helps form your decisions. My mother had just died. In May of 2007, she was only 54. I can remember thinking to myself she didn’t get enough time,” Mayor Girgis said. “She would have done more things. I literally was thinking, ‘if I had an opportunity, I would not let fear get in the way.’ And just a few weeks before someone asked me if I would run for office. My first response was ‘NO.’ I was in a job I loved. I think I made more money than the Mayor, but my husband encouraged me to run. My husband said I think you would do an amazing job.”
“We decided to come back here and make this community our home. I had small kids then; we wanted to stay and raise our kids here. So why not me,” she added.
Girgis says her first term of Mayor was definitely the most challenging. The Recession hit, the unemployment rate in Bedford was at 14 percent and the state implemented property tax caps so revenue to the city was reduced drastically, making the city’s financial situation challenging.
“In order to deal with some of those issues, we streamlined government, combining a few positions and that first term we implemented the trash fees,” she added. “And offered early retirement to employees that were eligible. Staff is always your biggest expense. At the time the city was borrowing to make purchases. So we had to get creative in how to handle the budget.”
The first four years were a challenge.
“So the first term was about getting all the basics down,” she added. “The budget is not balanced if you are having to borrow to pay your bills which we were having to do. You do not have an operating balance. Whatever the situation, unless you can deal with it, fix the holes, building a foundation. You have to have a vision and be creative. But you got to deal with the basics.”
“I already decided if I won, that would seek a second term because within your first term it is very difficult to get anything accomplished. So I was committed to run for the second term,” Girgis said. “I think if I hadn’t had that level commitment I probably would not have ran the second term. It was that bad.”
The Comprehensive Plan was implemented in the middle of Girgis’ first term.
“We got a lot of things accomplished in that plan. There is more to do, but quite of few things were completed or at least in progress. The utility infrastructure will take a while to get completed. it is long term investment,” she added.
The next Comprehensive Plan will build off what has already been accomplished, says Girgis.
“People want this growth and development and commitment to continue. One of the things people identify with is downtown,” she added. “They also want a splash pad, more parks, and more shaded areas. People are thinking about what will attract more people to our community. Also, things that will retain them in our community. “
During Mayor Girgis’ second term the city was awarded the Stellar Grant. Due to the timing of the grant, citizens encouraged her to run a third term.
“We were in the middle of planning and implementing projects,” she added. “The third term was really about me getting that work accomplished. “
The top five accomplishments that she has achieved in her estimation include:
- Stellar Grant Winner
- Storm Water Plan
- Milwaukee Rails/Trails
- Workforce Development
- Chamber of Commerce Community of the Year 2013
There were a few disappointments along the way for Mayor Girgis.
They include having to try three times for the Stellar Grant.
The process for being awarded the grant was a three-step process that included a letter of intent, full-application, and then an interview.
“The first Stellar application made it through the first two-steps but we did not receive the grant. The second time we didn’t make it through even the first process, but finally the third time we were approved,” she added. “If we were not approved the third time I was not going for the fourth.”
All political officials face criticism, and during her 12 years as Mayor, she did too.
She received complaints about the outfits she wore to events to them wanting her to cut her hair.
“I was surprised by some of the criticism by people,” she said. “But then they had a totally different reaction when I would see them in a public or city business setting.”
Mayor Girgis wants to thank her family for her accomplishments. She could not hold back tears as she talked about the support she received from her family, friends and city employees.
“My three kids, my husband Kamal,” she added. “I look at my kids, they were so young when I first started and now they have grown up so quickly.”
Girgis wants to thank the Bedford City Council for working with her to do what was best for the city.
“I knew when 5 of the 7 council members were not going to rerun for the next election that is was time for me not to run for Mayor,” Girgis said.
She also thanked her staff and department heads.
“They were an amazing team to work with,” she added. “They have been incredible people the whole step of the way in my tenure as Mayor.”
Currently, Girgis is serving as a part-time adjunct instructor at Indiana University in Public Affairs, but she has no immediate plans in the near future. She wants to take a few months off, and then maybe decide in the near future what she wants to do. She also states she would be interested in running for public office again.