Columbus Mayor-elect Skip Henderson has made his first hire to fill out his staff, tapping a former deputy city manager and nonprofit president to be his chief of staff.
Richard Bishop, who has more than four decades of working in key Columbus leadership positions, will be working with Henderson in the mayor’s office, the mayor-elect confirmed Wednesday morning during an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer.
“We will staff the office a little differently than the way the current administration is,” Henderson said. “We will follow more of the model that Jim Wetherington had. They can call themselves whatever they want, but it will be like a chief executive.”
At-large Councilor Judy Thomas filled that role under Wetherington from 2006-2009.
Henderson is excited to have Bishop filling that role.
“Richard is coming back to Columbus and Richard loves this community,” Henderson said. “His focus has been through the years on job creation and economic development, putting the right resources with the right needs. One of the things we are going to keep our eye on at all times is going to be job creation. I couldn’t be more excited about Richard taking that job.”
Bishop has spent the last year and a half as the president and chief executive officer of Grand Rapids Whitewater, a nonprofit organization in Michigan that is working to remove a series of dams and restore the flow of the Grand River into downtown. It is similar to what he did in Columbus when he was president and CEO of Uptown Columbus Inc. and helped oversee the river restoration project that created a 2.5-mile whitewater course on the Chattahoochee River into downtown.
“It is a great opportunity to come back home and work with a mayor who has 20 years of experience in what has been happening in Columbus,” Bishop said.
In addition to spending nearly 15 years at the helm of Uptown Columbus and expanding his role to president of Uptown Whitewater LLC, which managed the Chattahoochee whitewater course when the river project was completed six years ago, Bishop worked with the city of Columbus for more than 30 years over two stints. The last time, he started as a deputy Parks and Recreation director, became director of Parks and Rec and then became deputy city manager.
Though Bishop has lived in Grand Rapids since July of last year, he and his wife, Doris, have maintained a home in Columbus.
Henderson said he and Bishop talked about the position over the summer.
“We were not really looking to make that hire, but he and I bumped into each other in uptown. We got to talking, and it turned a little more serious,” Henderson said. “When I realized he wasn’t pulling my leg and he would be interested in working in the mayor’s office, I jumped at the opportunity.”
The fact that Bishop does not have a reputation as a yes-man is something that Henderson likes.
“The other thing I really like about Richard and I can disagree, sometimes rather vociferously, but we still smile and still like each other. He is going to express what he thinks you ought to do. He also understands, just like it said on Harry Truman’s desk, the buck stops with me. There will be times when I don’t follow his recommendation because I have to ultimately be responsible. And I am sure he will be there to tell me ‘I told you so.’”
Henderson had a vote of confidence from City Manager Isaiah Hugley.
“One of the things that I am excited about and people have asked me about is Isaiah Hugley,” Henderson said. “I have a tremendous about of respect for Isaiah. There are very few people in this community who have the depth of knowledge he has about the city of Columbus. I am excited about working with him.”
One of the advantages of bringing Bishop into the mayor’s office is his longstanding relationship with Hugley, Henderson said. Bishop and Hugley worked together, both as deputy city managers, for almost five years. When Carmen Cavezza retired as city manager, Hugley was elevated to the city’s top administrative role in 2005.
“Richard, even though he is not involved in the day to day operations of the city, he and Isaiah have a relationship,” Henderson said. “They are friends. They respect each other. And they work well together. So, I am excited to give Isaiah the opportunity and empower him to hold others accountable. ... I don’t want to micromanage the process. I just want everybody to buy in and as long as we are working and rowing in the right direction, we are good.”
Henderson said he still has two more hires to make before he takes office on Jan. 7. He is working with three of his supporters, John Stacey, Dr. Bob Wright and Robert Anderson to help him find the most qualified candidates.