New Vernon mayor has efficiency in mind

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Thu., Nov. 24, 2011
Mayor George Apel is quickly settling into his new office at Town Hall. Photo by Steve Smith.
Mayor George Apel is quickly settling into his new office at Town Hall. Photo by Steve Smith.

Vernon Mayor George Apel's first days in office were hardly a cake walk. “The first week was an adventure,” Apel said, adding that his first day, Nov. 14, began at 6:10 a.m. with Town Administrator John Ward bringing him on a tour of all of the town's departments.

“We had a schedule until 3 o'clock to go to all of the different departments,” Apel said, “[to] not only meet with the departments’ heads, but go to their departments, sit down with their people and get acquainted with them, talk to them and see where they are located. At 3:30 p.m. we made the roll call for the police shift change. At 7 o'clock was the meeting for all the fire chiefs and lieutenants... and then back to the police station for 10:30/11 p.m. roll call.”

Apel said that, as a manager, he has always felt that getting in touch with his people is more effective than holding a meeting in his office. The new mayor also said his staff is the main reason his transition has been smooth.

“The rest of the week was about keeping things flowing,” he said. “Fortunately, there's an extremely competent staff. They've been very helpful in getting me on board.”

On his second day in office, Apel had to run his first Town Council meeting, which he said went “really well.”

“I think there was really good dialogue,” Apel said, adding that the members all arrived dressed for the part. “I happen to feel that the chamber should be filled with people who are professionally dressed. A given type of attire promotes professionalism and helps the atmosphere. I really feel there has to be a given decorum in the council chambers. I'm old-fashioned, and I was brought up that way.”

While some have criticized the town's past administrations for a lack of transparency, Apel said he hopes to nip that in the bud. “I'd like to make everything as transparent as possible,” he said. “We're looking into Freedom of Information – there are fairly strict statues – I'm reviewing that, and we will make adjustments so that we are in compliance with the statutes. We have to make sure there isn't some personal information, so we have to contact the individual involved. [For example,] the Board of Education's budget [on which Apel worked as a former board member] this past year is probably the most comprehensive and transparent budget that's ever been presented in this town.”

Apel said he's been getting used to some newer technology – something that takes a little more effort.

While he acknowledges that there are many challenges ahead for his administration, the town, and its school system, Apel said he hopes to be more proactive in acknowledging and promoting the successes of town and school employees and programs.

“We know what we're trying to do, and a lot of people don't have the visibility,” he said. “This school system has a tremendous amount of things it's doing. We have a good school system, but I think sometimes we're negatively looked at. I see good things happening.”

While some might see the election of a Republican as a continuation of Mayor Jason McCoy's administration, Apel said he has a distinctly different style. “I think Jason did a lot of good things for this town,” Apel said. “For example, he brought it into the 21st century, from an information technology basis. I have an altogether different style. My style is getting a team together and getting a plan together. First we have to figure out where we are, and then we can plan where to go. I think you'll find that I'm much lower-key, but that doesn't mean that I'm easy.”

Having been an engineering manager at Pratt and Whitney for 23 years, Apel said teamwork is of utmost importance. “I've always been able to develop with my people the understanding that if we work as a team, they support me and I support them,” he said. “With the amount of work that has to be done here, if you don't have a cohesive team, there is inefficiency. You won't get things done.”

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