When Barbara Bass ran for mayor, she felt like it was the right move, given her financial background as a certified public accountant and her volunteer experience on community boards.
Today, the 60-year-old, who will end her third and final two-year term later this month as the first female mayor of Tyler, said she believes the position was indeed a good fit and is satisfied with the past six years, which brought amazing results.
A big part of that, she said, is because Tyler had gone into a strategic planning initiative before the recession, so although the economy went down, the city still had a master plan for the community and continued to work that plan.
“I think that was critical to where we are today — the fact that we did not lose focus. We were on a mission to accomplish what we as a community had come together and decided. When the council and the city manager and all the staff continued to work that plan based on the community’s wishes, then we continued to see the results,” she said.
Mayor Bass said she believes she had a good feel for the broader position when she ran for mayor because she understood the financial side and general board process, but doesn’t think she had as much understanding or appreciation of the public side of the position.
“I think probably if there was a part of it I didn’t have as much understanding or appreciation for on the front end, it was the communication side of it and how critical that was on an individual level, on a group level with the different organizations and then on the greater community level with the overall media interaction,” Mayor Bass said.
When asked what her favorite things have been about being mayor, she replied, “All of the above.”
“I think it’s really fit my business background, my accounting background (and) my volunteer community nonprofit experience. All of that, I think, ended up being building blocks to me being mayor, and it was a really good fit,” she said. “From the speaking, the public side of it, I wasn’t as comfortable obviously on the front end. I had not done as much of it. But even that I enjoyed, because I enjoyed getting out and meeting people and talking to people about how great Tyler is and all the wonderful things we’re doing as a community.”
“It’s just been an absolute blessing. It’s something that I’ve enjoyed and looked forward to every day,” she added.
As far as the future, Mayor Bass plans to be involved in some special nonprofit projects and be more involved again with her church.
She said she thinks the next big step for her will be serving on a state board, and she has submitted her name to serve in a public position for a noncertified public accountant state board.
When she does leave the mayor position, she said she will miss her involvement in all parts of the community.
“I think with all of our different businesses and our jobs we get focused in certain areas, but being mayor, I was out and about pretty much in every corner of the community, so getting to just see what was going on and interact with the citizens from many different organizations and all the great things they were doing and how they were improving lives for children, adults, senior adults — just so many ways they were improving lives — and as a mayor just getting to be there and be part of that, I will miss that,” she said.
“I’ll (also) miss being just right in the middle of feeling like I am in a very big way affecting the future of Tyler and having it be an even greater place to live.”
For the next mayor, she would say, “Find what works for you. Try to be your own person and lead in your own style.”
She said she thinks many of the things she started will be continued because it’s part of what the community was asking for in Tyler’s comprehensive plan.
For instance, she said, the Tree Tyler Initiative came through a committee discussion about the desire to keep the natural beauty of Tyler and continue maintaining and building on it.
“So I hope the next mayor continues to listen to what the community is asking of our city council and the programs that are important, such as Tree Tyler, will be continued,” she said.
Mayor Bass said she believes a person’s value system and how they approach life comes from who they are as a person, and with everything she does, she tries to validate it against her value system to ensure that she’s doing what’s best for Tyler — “that it’s not about me that it’s about the greater community.”
“It’s certainly a collaborative effort, and there are not any of the accomplishments we’ve done that I could have done by myself,” she said.
Overall Mayor Bass called being mayor “a phenomenal experience.”
“I mean I literally would not take anything for the experience,” she said. “I just totally have grown as a person, and I feel like I’ve contributed to the community and Tyler’s identity of who we are ...” she said.
“I’ve done my best, and I think I’m leaving it for the next mayor in really good shape.”
City Councilman Mark Whatley, who has been on the council since 2009, said Mayor Bass “has certainly set the bar high as far as staying engaged in the community.”
She “loves the community here, and you can tell it by the way she has served as mayor and the things she’s continued to do,” he said.
Whatley said the mayor also has been a joy to work with, and tries to work through processes and problems with people.
“You know you won’t get blindsided because she will be forthright and upfront. It’s great to work with her,” he said.
Whatley said Mayor Bass also has a servant’s heart and lives out her faith each day.
“We’ve been fortunate to have Barbara as a mayor the last six years,” he said. “She’s done a great job, and I’ve certainly enjoyed serving with her on the council. A lot of that’s due to her good attitude and the way she deals with people.”
Former city councilman and current mayor candidate Martin Heines echoed Whatley, saying, “It has been an honor to serve as a council member while Barbara has served as mayor. Her business knowledge and experience as a CPA have benefited the city of Tyler. But she is most respected for her enthusiastic, strong, positive character and her faith and belief in all Tyler’s citizens.”