Marshfield has a new mayor.
On Thursday, Natalie McNish was sworn in as Mayor of Marshfield as one of the first items of new business in the meeting of the city’s Board of Aldermen. She received the gavel from outgoing Mayor Robert Williams and was sworn in to preside over the second half of the meeting, after a break for photos.
"I’m very excited," McNish told The Mail in an interview prior to the meeting. "I’m looking forward to a lot of things. I'm looking forward to learning more about the intricacies of the city; I'm looking forward to helping the board members work through issues as they come up. I really enjoy working with local governments, and I always have."
McNish is a former state auditor who even audited Marshfield during her time in that position. "As a state auditor, I was always on the outside looking in, and I always had the benefit of hindsight," she said. "This is an opportunity to take all I’ve learned from all of that and use it as foresight, and maybe use it as an educational opportunity for others: This is what I've seen in other cities, and maybe it would work for Marshfield."
Despite a great deal of experience in examining municipal budgets, McNish stressed that she doesn't know everything. "I think I’m gonna learn a lot," she said. "By no means do I think I'm coming into this with a complete understanding of everything that’s going to happen. Even with my professional experience, I can’t say I know all the answers, because I don't. But I’m really excited about what I can contribute to the team."
McNish was unopposed for her seat, as Williams decided not to run for another term.
"I wanted to run for this office because I thought my education and my professional experience really could benefit the team, and I really did want to see what it looked like from the other side of the table," McNish explained when asked what made her run for office.
McNish is employed as the senior auditor at Missouri State University. The MSU website notes that she is a certified fraud examiner, a certified governmental auditing professional and the university’s contact for the ethics hotline, record requests and audit-related questions or concerns.
When thinking back to her time as a state auditor examining the books for the City of Marshfield, McNish noted that the city was memorable.
"When I audited the City of Marshfield, I saw the drive, the motivation, just the want-to in the employees and in the citizens," she said.
She said that the city has done a great job of moving forward since she completed that audit. Improvements to water and sewer, the new pool and the activity center to come are notable examples of the city’s will to embrace progress.
"None of those things were here at the time I completed my work with the audit, and so this city is very willing to try," she said. "We're very willing to embrace new concepts and new ideas and work together to accomplish those goals.”
McNish said that she loves the energy that spurred the city to meet those goals.
"I love that particular feeling of community that I got here," she said. "That's part of what motivated us to move here in the first place."
McNish has actively contributed to the city’s governance through her membership on the Parks and Recreation and Finance Committees. "There were places where my experience kind of benefited the conversation and provided a bed of knowledge they wouldn’t have had otherwise," she explained. "I really enjoyed being allowed and being able to work so closely with the processes. That is why I wanted to work as mayor instead of alderman. I wanted to work with employees day to day on the issues."
She explained that the Board of Aldermen is the decision-making body, and the mayor serves as both a mouthpiece for the city and a mediator for the board with the staff and the citizens.
When asked if she had any goals for her new position, McNish replied that she doesn’t have any specific projects in mind.
"I do believe that we have done an amazing job in pushing forward," she said, referring to the city's big projects, such as the pool and the interchange project that is currently underway.
However, McNish looks to temper progress with maintenance and care of existing structures.
"In the process of doing that, we have foregone some maintenance of our structures, and I do think it's time to pick that back up," she said.
She cautioned that a number of projects are underway, and others, like a third interchange, are in the works. "If we don't take care of what we already have, the growth that we might yield from this won't be as meaningful," she said. "We’ll constantly be having to go back and catch up. I think we’re at a critical point on maintenance where we really have to go back and shore up our infrastructure, and that can be anything from repairing streets that need repair (we have several of those), and in the same breath, maybe it’s the addition of sidewalks. That, to me, is a piece of our infrastructure that isn’t necessarily growth but isn’t something we have. I think it would help us quite a bit."
She sees a few similarities between herself and former Mayor Williams. “I think we’re the same in that we want to maintain a transparent and efficient government,” she said.
But she added that there are differences, as Williams himself has stated. “He said many times that he’s a creator, he’s a builder, and while he has done a marvelous job of getting us to the point of where we have these big projects that are on the way to completion, what he doesn’t necessarily have that I do is the financial background of how do we keep it there,” she said. “That’s where we are different.”
Added McNish, “I don’t think operations of the city in general change much between the two of us, just more the focus. He was focused on these very large projects, which he has brought to actually happen.
“While I’m not coming into this with some specific project I want to see happen, I want to make sure we maintain that growth while shoring up what we already have,” she said.