Progress And Promise For A Town Once In Crisis The 30,000 residents of Marion, Ind., have been through a tough economy. Their mayor, Wayne Seybold, has been there, too, growing up in a trailer park on the factory side of town. He's downsized the city's government and expanded the business community. And his many trips abroad as mayor are paying off.
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Progress And Promise For A Town Once In Crisis

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Progress And Promise For A Town Once In Crisis

Progress And Promise For A Town Once In Crisis

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Getting political consensus and making practical progress can be hard work for the mayor of any city. And we turn next to our series taking a look at how cities are being run in this challenging economy. NPR's Noah Adams met the mayor of Marion, Indiana.

NOAH ADAMS: Here's a small example: Seybold's wife is from San Francisco, and she's been looking for a certain reassurance.

WAYNE SEBOLD: You know, she'd tell me, if we don't get a Starbucks, I'm leaving. So we went after Starbucks pretty hard, and there they are. And it's one of the top performing stores in the region.

ADAMS: The town is happy that a Kohl's department store is coming. People will see the mayor shopping in the grocery store and say, when are we going to get a Target, a Texas Roadhouse, a Panera? Marion, Indiana believes brand names help bring factories. The mayor says it's a holistic approach to job creation.

SEBOLD: You know, it's so expensive to take your family to a sporting event, or to a Broadway-type show, or those types of things, that a lot of us have replaced entertainment with eating out and shopping.

ADAMS: And this is always a stop on the mayor's tour - it's the Splash House.


ADAMS: Unidentified Child: Welcome into our house.

SEBOLD: Come on in, guys. This is Joey. He's blind. He won't you hurt you.

ADAMS: I met Joey the dog, and Wayne's wife, Jennifer, and we turned on the television to see some of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games - Wayne Seybold with his sister Kim skating in Calgary.

SEBOLD: This was our long program at the Olympic Games.

ADAMS: Does that seem real that that's you on the television?

SEBOLD: No. That's about 35 pounds ago.


ADAMS: After the Olympics, Seybold spent a few years putting ice shows together. And he knew he wanted a small-town Indiana family life and soon he moved back home to Marion. He'd grown up here in a trailer park, the south side, the factory side of town. And right here is the spot where a new economic dream was born.

SEBOLD: This is probably the most blighted building and property we have in Marion today, and it's one of those old reminders of kind of where we were as a city.

ADAMS: It's now a mostly empty, huge factory that once made tube television sets. Seybold was the new mayor in the spring of 2004 when this place shut down.

SEBOLD: Nine hundred and eighty people on that day lost their job. They came to work and the doors were locked.

ADAMS: Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

ADAMS: Marion's unemployment rate is down. So is the city payroll, down a hundred people - and that's by attrition. The mayor has cut the budget and balanced the books.

SEBOLD: We didn't have an IT department, now we do. We were doing all the trash, now we don't.

ADAMS: The IT folks found the city was paying for a hundred phone lines it didn't need. And the trash? Now it's privatized.

SEBOLD: We have 22 parks in our system. Well, we don't need 22 parks. We're selling parks.

ADAMS: Selling parks, giving them away, so you won't have to go around and mow all that grass. The goal is five big parks - parks that people drive to.

SEBOLD: Years ago you had to have a neighborhood park in every neighborhood because people walked, but it's a different world today. And I think that's what you have to do with the federal government.

ADAMS: Noah Adams, NPR News.

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