The Hope City Board of Directors recessed Tuesday night into a brief executive session, after which the six directors unanimously elected Hope Mayor Dennis Ramsey to begin his 22nd year as mayor of Hope, the longest such tenure since the city was incorporated in 1875.
The Hope City Board of Directors recessed Tuesday night into a brief executive session, after which the six directors unanimously elected Hope Mayor Dennis Ramsey to begin his 22nd year as mayor of Hope, the longest such tenure since the city was incorporated in 1875. Mayor Ruffin Bryant served a total of 11 years in three tenures between 1916 and 1935, when the office was subject to direct election and the mayor was the paid chief executive of the City. Mayor Albert Graves served the next-longest period of 10 years in two tenures from 1935-39, and 1941-47. Ramsey, who was first elected to the city board and as mayor in 1987, was defeated after his first term on the board; but, winning election, again, in 1993, he has served continuously since as both a city director and mayor. “I grew up and my stepdad worked for the City, and at the time of his death, he was city manager; so, I had been around the City of Hope since I was about nine years old,” Ramsey recalled. “I went to work at the swimming pool in the summers, and in college, I worked for different departments, and then, I went into the military. Actually, I went to college to study city administration; but, things changed.” Ramsey became a successful banking executive, instead. But, public service was in his blood by that time. “When I came back from the military, I went to work for Hope Water and Light; and, then about 1976, I went to the bank,” he said. About that time, a position on the city board opened up, and Ramsey sought some advice from friends, and was encouraged to run for office. “When you grow up in a town, with people who were always involved, that made it the town you were part of when you were growing up, you're paying a debt,” Ramsey said. “It's something that, ninety-eight percent of the time I have enjoyed; sometimes, you have to make decisions that your friends don't agree with; and, I wouldn't call it a calling. “Like we say in the meetings sometimes, you draw the short straw,” he quipped. But, Ramsey clearly enjoys the responsibility, as evidenced in a business-like, yet, at times, lighthearted style of presiding at meetings. He attempts to engage people with business before the board, in part, because it is a job that, at times, demands the instincts of a referee. “People don't stand in line, in our form of government, to be the ceremonial head of the city,” he said. “It's been nice to be involved in so many things where good things have happened.” But, there are challenges; perhaps, the toughest of Ramsey's tenure came over the past year or so in dealing with the stability of the local hospital. “It affected so many people; clearly, the folks that were working out there, but, also, the health and welfare of the folks of Hope and Hempstead County,” he said. “It was a challenge because we didn't know what to do; it was being involved with a group that sort of evolved, and we learned as we went through that mess.” Ramsey has made mistakes, he admitted. But, he said, he has tried to learn not to repeat them. “There was a sales tax issue that came before the board, one time; it wasn't presented well and I knew I shouldn't have voted for it, but I went with the majority,” he said. “And, there have been a couple of others; but, I have enjoyed being with a group that works to solve problems.” Ramsey said that he has worked with a number of boards over the years that have accomplished some changes which have had lasting benefit for Hope, and he is proud of that association. “The sales tax that we finally passed that helped renovate all of the streets in Hope,” he said. “The improvements we have made in the parks; and, when the college went into the university system, we had to raise $250,000, and we were down to the lick log, so to speak, and we needed $50,000. And, the City agreed to put in that $50,000, and we can see the dividends that has paid. But, it's nothing that I've done; it's having been with a group of people who know how to get things done.” Ramsey admits that he is looking at the home stretch of his tenure. And, he has a couple of pieces of advice for anyone considering public service. “One, you need to listen,” he said. “Some people say I don't listen, but I think I do. You need to treat people the same. Having been in the banking business, we have a saying, that, 'Your worst customer today may win the lottery tomorrow and be your best customer the next day.' You have to treat people with respect, and to listen. “You have to be willing to know there is a time when you have to say, 'No,'” he added. “That is the hardest thing; but, you can't please everybody all of the time. It's been very rewarding; but, the time line is getting short. I still enjoy it, but I told the board in the executive session tonight that it's time to start looking down the road. “People may be getting Ramsey fatigue,” he quipped. “We need some new life on the board; some of the young folks need to step up and be a part of it.”