Busy Start for Burlington's New City Manager
Chad Bird told Tri States Public Radio that he spent his first week on the job getting familiar with budgets and the city's current projects.
"I pulled out the budget book, which is pretty crazy because it's 300 and some odd pages," Bird said, adding he looked through the budget between meetings and phone calls.
"(I'm) just trying to absorb all the pieces. Burlington's got a lot of projects going on."
Bird said he's excited about the residential development going on downtown. He called it a "unique opportunity" for a town like Burlington.
The community currently has several buildings either being renovated, or yet to be built, that will provide downtown residences. Bird said he thinks younger people are looking for apartments downtown, near restaurants and shopping.
Bird said he believes the key to getting people to move downtown is embracing "tourism as economic development."
"When folks really can work from anywhere these days, quality of life, recreation, and tourism are more important than ever. I think expanding our downtown shopping and dining experiences would help with that," Bird said.
Bird also talked to TSPR about the future of Cascade Bridge. "The balance between historical preservation and moving forward can be delicate."
"What we'll have to do is really decide, does it even make financial sense to try and preserve something that if we do, might only have a 20 or 30 year life," Bird said. "Or, in some fashion replace it and still honor the history but have a 100-year bridge."
Bird said if the bridge ends up being replaced, parts of it could be used as artwork and displayed in a park.
Whether to repair or replace the historical bridge into Crapo Park, built in 1896, has been an ongoing issue in Burlington. It's been closed to vehicular traffic since 2008, and was closed to pedestrian traffic in 2019.
Bird came to Burlington from Decorah in northeast Iowa, where he served as city manager for 16 years. He replaced Jim Ferneau, who served as Burlington’s city manager for eight years, and left to pursue a new business venture.