New Warsaw mayor ‘still learning,’ seeks to broaden connections

By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — Warsaw’s new mayor, considered by many to be consummately prepared, having 24 years of city council experience in his back pocket, isn’t taking anything for granted.

In fact, Jeff Grose is taking a deep dive into further understanding the inner workings of city government by having top-down meetings with each department head.

Grose tells New Now Warsaw that he’s met with about two thirds of the department heads with some lasting for two hours each.

To say he’s absorbing a lot of information might be an understatement.

“I’m learning so much … I’ll still say I’m a green horn,” Grose said.

He said the conversations have been a two-way street and that it’s important to understand their perspectives while also imparting his outlook.

“It doesn’t mean we’re all going to agree. It doesn’t mean we’re all on the good ship Lollipop, but I think it’s very important … (that) there’s trust,” he said.

One thing that works to his advantage are the longtime relations he’s built with many of the department leaders.

“I’m in very familiar and comfortable surroundings with very good people,” he said. “You wanna talk about helping me get through the day, it has been a great help. It’s given me confidence.”

The 57-year-old mayor sat down on Tuesday for his first of regular broadcast interviews for In The Know, the public affairs show that airs each weekend on Kensington Digital Media that also comes in the form of a podcast.

After meeting with all department heads, Grose said he’ll take it another step by meeting with employees.

In his conversation with News Now Warsaw, Grose also talked about his top priorities outlined when he took office in January.

One of those is earning citizen trust and encouraging civic engagement.

Having good lines of communication are especially important given the current hyper-partisan political climate that exists and seems to often impart expressions of dislike with many forms of government.

He said he would rather talk directly with people who have concerns with city government, but thinks it should start at the appropriate level such as taking a concern about potholes (hypothetically) to the street department.

He also said he’s not a fan of social media for such conversations, because that style of short interactions can often be taken out of context.

He said he’d rather talk with people face-to-face or on the phone.

Another priority is strengthening intergovernmental relations with Kosciusko County and Winona Lake.

He’s already begun attending Kosciusko County Council and commissioners meetings and said he wants to do that same with Winona Lake Town Council.

He was at Thursday’s county council meeting even though he didn’t speak or have an issue he was there to support.

His presence carries on a tradition by former mayor Joe Thallamer and Grose tells News Now Warsaw that he wants to expand that to Winona Lake Town Council.

Grose said the idea of better communications was pitched to him by State Rep. Craig Snow.

“Everybody knows — Captain Obvious will tell you — that what we do is going to have an impact on the county. What we do is going to have an impact on Winona Lake and visa versa,” he said.

Working with the county will benefit city residents, he said.

“If the county is doing business, I want to be as close as I can to it so I’m listening for those 15,000 people who are part of the county,” he said.

Grose said he wants to see himself and other city department heads work more closely with other government leaders.