The Chamber’s monthly Chesapeake Division Board meeting on February 20 featured guest speaker James Baker, the new Chesapeake City Manager. Baker gave the group of 30 board members and Chamber staff insight into his plans for Chesapeake. “Change must come from the top,” he said. “There is an expectation that everyone works together.” Baker also emphasized that he is happy to be in the city manager role, and will focus on projects that cross department lines to build interaction.
When asked about economic development, Baker replied, “If you look around, the successful cities are dynamic and have good business development. This leads to more successful communities.” Baker also noted, “It is fine for communities to have high standards, but if it leads to over regulation, that doesn’t help anyone.”
Baker went on to discuss regionalism and the challenges that the public sector faces. “If I only talk to Virginia Beach when I need something, it simply won’t work,” he said. “The conversations need to take place when nothing is needed; it takes time to gain credibility and trust.”
Dean McClain, Director of Municipal Affairs for the Chamber, pointed out that the Roads Funding Plan faces challenges, such as getting every jurisdiction on board. “Transportation is critical to this area,” Baker replied. “If you look for a common denominator solution across the state, it probably won’t work. For me, that is why regionalism is important. It is very easy only to focus on yourself.”