During the 1980s, Robert Stocker served two terms as mayor of Royal Oak, following four years as commissioner. He remembers the joy of "walking every precinct each fall and spring" to stay in touch with residents, "something I don't see happening these days." He recollects downtown being 60% vacant when he took office and about "90% occupied with diverse retail which attracted all ages, seniors as well as young people," when he left.
Stocker recalls being personally involved in visiting retailers in Birmingham, "where leases were running about $25 per square foot," and urging them to come to Royal Oak where comparable space was available for single-digits per square foot. I reminded him that the city was working with liquor license moratoriums at the time, but he countered with, "We weren't anti-liquor, but we wanted to maintain a balanced downtown."
Robert also recalled having to overcome the fears of residents when he supported Fresard's purchase of the senior center. That recollection moved our conversation quickly to the present, since another Fresard property has recently been purchased by the city to be converted into a parking structure. What has former mayor Robert Stocker to say about current civic/political matters in Royal Oak?
Quite a bit. Drawing on his experiences as an elected official and in his personal/political circles Stocker offers:
current city commission "is certainly not impressing anyone."
The former mayor wanted to stay with this one, adding, "Sometimes elected officials might not even have finished high school, but Staff is usually made up of educated professionals." Hitting still harder, he said, "Any idiot can become an overnight success by getting elected." Working our way around The Table, Robert and I compared impressions. Perhaps because he has been there, his assessment of the individuals is much harsher than mine.
Stocker believes there should be term limits for commissioners and mayors.
Speaking softly but making statements which others might shout, the former mayor made several points:
Throughout the conversation, whether he was reminiscing about his time in office or commenting on current problems, former mayor Robert Stocker repeatedly returned to the theme of judging elected officials by whether "they're in politics for their own benefit or to serve their constituents." "But," he warned, "nor should an elected official bend with every breeze coming from voters."
When we chatted about the effect of current economic times on one's personal and business life, I failed to ask Robert whether he misses political life. -- May 2009