Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl looks back at time in office, looks forward to beekeeping

When Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl won his first mayoral race in 2007, he promised tighter code enforcement and closer relationships with students in his acceptance speech.

Eight years later, 62-year-old Wiehl said, though he may not have accomplished those things, he is proud of what he has done in office.

Now, as he is watching his last few weeks in office go by, Wiehl sat down with The Post to reflect on his time as mayor.

The Post: Is there anything that you think that you didn’t accomplish in your eight years as mayor that you wish you could have?

Paul Wiehl: Actually, better code enforcement. … We have a code that could really be revamped. I wanted to do some of that, but really I stepped back from that because every time you do something like that there’s unintended consequences. … When you look at the what goes down here, we are a university town for the most part. … So we start saying ‘How do you make code work when we have a transient population that essentially spends two years in a dorm or on campus and then two years out?’ and they have a lot to learn.

TP: What’s been your most trying moment as mayor?

PW: Trying moment? I don’t know. You know, it all blurs. It’s really traumatic. I probably blocked it out. I was so traumatized. It’ll take years of therapy to dig it out again, I’m sorry to say.

TP: What do you consider the highlight of your career as mayor?

PW: Actually, I think the best thing I’ve done is the transportation and boosting the bike pedestrian master plan and getting that rolling forward. I look and say — and really when I say ‘transportation’ it’s the GoBus, it’s Athens Public Transit — and what the important lesson for me there is to be able to step back and let someone else run it with the expertise. One thing I realize as a mayor is that you’re supposed to be, you know, you’re the chief executive officer, but you’re not going to be an expert in any given subject. … I’m learning by mistakes, but I say it’s really letting go and letting the experts do it. … So the idea is to — and for me, it’s a highlight — it’s also the series of mistakes that you make and learn from and correct, so it’s a learning experience for me, too.

TP: I heard that you and (Steve) Patterson talked a lot before Patterson decided that he was going to run for mayor. What were those conversations like?

PW: The conversations with him are basically what he felt was important, and part of what I see what’s important to him is the disabilities inclusiveness of the city, which we need. You’d rather get people inside than have people throwing rocks from the outside. So the conversations with him are like ‘OK, what are you considering important.’ And I fully expect there are things that I think are quirky, that I don’t think are practical. The metaphor I’ve been using lately, I’ve put in two terms, two coats of paint on that wall, and I’ve probably missed some spots. Let him get the spots that I’ve missed, and I’ll probably say ‘You missed that spot over there, too.’ But the fact is that giving up the reigns is important. The idea is to let him do his thing.

TP: Now that you’re, you know, stepping down, taking a step away from the city building, what are you going to do?

PW: As little as possible. I have a bunch of projects that I want to do that I haven’t gotten done. Essentially, this soaks up most of my time and my energy and to tell the truth, that’s what it should be. … I need to balance my private life with my public life. … What happens is that I go to a movie these days, and I realize I’m not looking at the movie, I’m thinking about city business. You need to step back from that. I don’t have a garden anymore. … I’ve surely neglected my bees in the countryside there. I have bees, and I didn’t pull any honey off this year, and it’s kind of late to go do it now. … You start saying when do you want to do your own projects. I’ll slow things down enough to listen to myself and then, at that point, move along from there.


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