“It's supposed to be God, family, then work last. I think I had my priorities switched around,” said Tim Wilson sitting in his cleared out office on one of his last days as Miami's Interim City Manager after a 13 year career with the city.
Wilson said he hasn't taken a full weeks vacation off in 13 years and April 5 was his last day.
“I've always tried to be dedicated to my job, I almost feel like I failed my family in my duties at home,” he said.
Long hours are not uncommon for him in this and his previous jobs. Wilson said he worked 17 hours a day, seven days a week, when he was a partner in a road construction business paving the city's streets.
“I was paving streets in the community and then they offered up the job of street superintendent and public works director, then utility departments, and it went from there,” Wilson said.
Wilson who is also Second Chief of the Ottawa Tribe, said he has no immediate job or business plans.
“Well, what I need to do is take about three months off and get some stuff done. I'm actually going to Florida next week to get away for awhile, and uh....but you know I'm actually going down there to work. A friend has a vacation home that he needs painted also,” he laughed as he confessed this.
“I just want to clear my head. I've had a former city manager tell me it takes about 30 days to clear your head from everything. That's all I've had on my mind is the city, so first thing I'll be doing is clearing my mind.”
Wilson plans to start looking for something after about three months, he said,“The search firms we've been using have all called me and said, I've got a job for you...I've had four or five jobs offered in Miami, pretty good ones too. I'd like to maybe get out of the political environment for awhile and get in the private sector.”
Asked how he dealt with the ups and downs of the position Wilson said, “I don't know if I take criticism very well, but I take stress very well. I never take it home with me. I never go home and take it out on my family or anything like that, it rolls off pretty easy.”
He said he has developed a tough skin and that criticism from some citizens has been from lack of knowledge. “We all make mistakes, but 90 percent of the time people just don't know the facts or aren't educated on them....Right now it's a tough time to be in local government because of the economy.”
“I think the city has the support of the general public. For a short period I took it personal, but I quickly got over it... I like when people question government, but I also feel that's why you have elected officials to oversee things,” Wilson said.
“The city has been really good to me and my family. I've made a lot of sacrifices for the city and the city has made a lot for me. It's been a good marriage.”
When asked what he is proudest of during his time in Miami, he said,“That I worked my way up from the bottom, I think the city employees appreciated that...Mike Spurgeon took me under his wing and the advantage I had was I served under two city manager's and I kind of learned the good and the bad.”
Wilson lists Spurgeon and former city manager Huey Long as his mentors. “I've had two good mentors and I was pretty raw when I first came along,” he said.
“One of the things that I'm proudest of is the Miami pool that was my project and it was debated whether to doze it in...we spent $617,000 dollars on it, matter of fact we spent about $400,000 on it and they said we'd done such a good job they gave us the funds to do phase two,” he said.
“The other one is the solid waste out there, it was operating in the red, and we had a change of management out there with Scott Baldridge and instantly within that year it went to operating in the black, and you know we're not a for-profit company, but it has produced funds for the city. The city manager turned us loose with it and we quit burning and started the transfer stations and recycling, and look at it now.”
“No regrets,” Wilson said,“but I would like to see a new city animal shelter, and I wish we could do more for the youth to attract more and the young professionals to make them want to live here. You've got to give them a reason to want to move here, that's where the focus needs to be.”
Asked about why he chose Miami as a place to live and work,“I don't know anything else. I grew up in Commerce and graduated from Commerce, and then on to Miami. I do have an interest in leaving for awhile just to see what's out there. I was telling my wife I'm at the perfect opportunity in my life, I'm at a crossroads, because I'm 50 years old, and I figure I have about 15 good years left of work and I want to do what I want to do. I don't want to get where I'm too old and have regrets. I think I'm burnt out more than anything else,” Wilson said.
“That's why I'm not jumping into anything. I want to take a few months clear my mind, and think about it while I do things on the farm,” he said.
Because of his drive to do the job well he even cut short a recent “Make A Wish” family trip to Disney World with his son who has some health issues to come back to the city early because he didn't have a back up. “I managed the city from my phone the whole time,” he said.
“It's become such a habit. I have about 1,500 emails a day I have to respond to that's city related. Anything I'm doing I'm sitting there answering texts, but I'm doing that so much it's a habit,” Wilson said as he showed his new personal bare minimum cellphone after giving up the city's more sophisticated one, as a text came in.
“I think the hardest part for me in leaving, I'm not going to miss the hundreds of phone calls, you know I'm not going to miss the stress, but I'm probably going to take a while to get to where I quit worrying about, 'well I hope they did this or I hope they got this done'. And there are some really good people at the city, you spend more time with these people then your family, and they've become friends.”
“The department heads had a surprise party for me the other day and man did they get me,” Wilson said. The Police Chief George Haralson took him to lunch and everyone was waiting at Pizza Hut to surprise him with a going away party including his wife and oldest son. He said, “I walked in and thought, man I know everybody here'.”
“The didn't want to tip me off so, they all rode the Pelivan down there to surprise me” he laughed.
Wilson and his wife have four children ages 33 to 10 years old and grandchildren that he is looking forward to being with them more.
During Wilson's work here his son needed extensive medical care for two years that required trips to Kansas City. Being dedicated to his job Wilson would stay with his son all night then drive back to Miami in the morning, working all day and returning at night. His wife also experienced a fight with breast cancer. Few knew what personal turmoil Wilson was going through at the time.
Wilson said he wishes his predecessor Jeffery Bishop or whoever is chosen for the position next well, “He's a nice guy, and I know he's interested in the position. ...Whoever it is will have their work cut out for them.”
Wilson left a detailed exit report, with contacts, projects, meetings, etc. to help the next city manager and he stayed through to complete the budget for the next year.
“You've got to know when it's time to take a job and you've got to know when it's time to leave. I hope that I can start my business back. I'll be going from answering to 13,000 people to answering myself,” Wilson said.