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Elected to serve: The city’s top troubleshooter

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For most people, a phone ringing isn’t very significant. But for Bolivar Mayor Chris Warwick, that ring means his work day is just beginning. 

“I don’t really have a routine,” Warwick said. “When the phone rings, I jump.”

Warwick has served as Bolivar’s mayor for just over two years.

Under city ordinance, the mayor of Bolivar has the assigned duties of presiding over the board of aldermen, voting in case of a tie in the Board and “having the general supervision of interest and business of the City.” 

Bolivar mayor Warwick

Warwick directs the board meeting after being sworn in office for his second term.

The “general supervision of interest and business” is what Warwick said he spends most of his days doing. The majority of his time is spent fulfilling the broad responsibility, with board of aldermen meetings typically happening only twice a month.

“One of the duties I perform is just being here to hear the department heads and being here to listen to citizens and hear their requests,” Warwick said.

He said he then presents the citizens’ requests to City Administrator Tracy Slagle and the board of aldermen so he can “advocate for the citizens in that manner and whatever needs they might have."

One duty not specifically mentioned in the ordinance is being a public figure. From ribbon cuttings to community events, the mayor often makes appearances to show his support.

Although he doesn’t have a fixed schedule, Warwick said he tries to keep Fridays available “for either the citizens if they want to come in and visit, or if the staff needs something.”

“I try to be available, if not specifically here, then by appointment,” he said.

A meeting with City of Bolivar department heads directed by Slagle every Tuesday morning is one of the few concrete events scheduled in the mayor’s “routine.”

Warwick Door

The plaque on the door of Mayor Chris Warwick’s office in City Hall.

Nonetheless, Warwick said the main thing he learned quickly after entering office is how time-consuming the role can be.

“There’s weeks that there might not be anything, but then there’s weeks that it’s all-consuming,” he said.

Alongside his mayoral duties, much of Warwick’s time is focused on his business, Warwick Electric. 

Warwick said he works “double duty” by running Warwick Electric and serving the City of Bolivar. 

“Running my business is priority one,” Warwick said. “Just for the fact that a mayor position isn’t a full-time paying job. One couldn’t just live off a mayor’s salary.”

According to city ordinance, the mayor’s compensation is $6,000 per year.

Highs and lows 

No mayor’s term is without its challenges, and Warwick said he has faced a few.

Warwick, Hamby, and Shane Duncan

Mayor Chris Warwick describes his plan of action to Jerry Hamby and Shane Duncan regarding a sidewalk at the intersection of South Pike Avenue and South West Street.

“The toughest challenge is dealing with the aspect of hearing what staff needs as far as fund mechanisms and trying to negotiate through that,” he said.

One issue that has posed a challenge is the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant, which Warwick said the city lost in 2016.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency SAFER grant helped employ 12 firefighters on staff, Warwick said. According to previous BH-FP coverage, the grant provided the city with more than $600,000 for salaries and benefits for full-time firefighters.

"With the loss of that, that’s been coming out of general funds,” Warwick said. ”We’re to a point where something needs to happen there so that we’re able to continue to have a full-time fire department.”

Even though Warwick faces many challenges as the city’s lead official, he said solving some of those problems is what he enjoys the most. 

“I enjoy helping people and trying to bring some type of resolution to whatever their issues might be,” he said. “My other hat that I wear is a troubleshooter. Troubleshooting and bringing resolutions is what I like to do.” 

Warwick and Hamby

Warwick listens as Bolivar Public Works Director Jerry Hamby discusses a sidewalk in need of repair near SBU’s campus.

Warwick sought election in 2017 because it felt “natural” for him to “step into that role as being a local resident who cared about the community.”

“I had been on the Board (of Aldermen) for prior years and had served two terms as president of the board. I was also fulfilling some obligations when the former mayor wasn’t able to be here,” Warwick added. 

Warwick’s stretch as a Ward 4 alderman lasted for five years, from 2012 to 2017, up until his election as mayor.

Warwick will hold his position at least until April 2021. 

When asked if he is going to run for mayor again in two years, Warwick said,  “That’s the plan as of now.”

Warwick’s roots in Bolivar

Warwick said his family has been in Bolivar “since about 1989.” 

He graduated from Bolivar High School in 1996 and “started work at Polk County Electric right out of high school.”

Dunked

Warwick is ready for a dunk in the dunk tank at the 150th anniversary celebration of the Bolivar Herald-Free Press on June 8, 2018.

Warwick married his wife, Jody, in 1997, just one year after graduating high school. 

“We were high school sweethearts,” Warwick said. 

The couple started their family in 2001 and have four children.  

“We’ve always just enjoyed Bolivar and think it’s a great place to raise a family,” Warwick said.

Sworn in

Warwick is sworn in as the city's new mayor by City Clerk Natalie Scrivner April 11, 2017, while aldermen Steve Sagaser and Thane Kifer look on.

This is part one of a multi-part series documenting the roles of local elected officials. Keep an eye out for additional installments in upcoming editions of the Bolivar Herald-Free Press. 

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