“First of all, it’s a privilege to do this job.” Born in Indianapolis, IN Mayor Mutz moved to Lakeland in 1996. Since then, his resume in the private sector and the list of philanthropic and volunteer work has grown. It’s downright impressive, actually. Along with that, he is married to wife Pam and they have twelve children and 24 grandchildren.
Having never thought about doing public service or working for the government, he’s found that there’s a shift when you come from the private sector. “Almost everyone of my stereotypical expectations were broken. Things take time. We have to work more methodical, and take more time to go through projects that you typically would. I understand it and I respect it. In fact there are some things I realize that if you didn’t have some of that structure, it would be bad. It’s a new nuance for me. You have to communicate differently, things are on public record. I live transparently anyways, when you have a big family like we do, you have to be authentic and genuine.”
I sat down with the Mayor and asked about some of the challenges that are facing Lakeland. When we were talking, I noticed that with every issue he’s concerned about, he followed it up with possible solutions. It’s obvious that he has a passion for Lakeland and works tirelessly to fill needs that aren’t being met. This includes job creation and alignment as well as job security, homelessness and mentoring kids to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, leaders with the hope they stay and raise families here. Mayor Mutz is working on two initiatives, a mentoring group and an economic inclusion group. “Lakeland is a city that loves to work on increasing inclusion and it’s not just lip service,” he said. “We want to build mentors for kids. We have a host of kids growing up today who have no vision, no dream and no model. They are willing to earn money quickly and possibly illegally.” Mayor Mutz feels if they had mentors early on, their lives may take a much different and more positive path.
There are many good mentoring groups all over polk county, the Mayor is trying to figure out what’s missing. “What we’re trying to do is put together a task force that can put together the information of everyone’s mentoring groups. So I can hand you, as a mom, a card with organizations where their child could find a mentor. And if they can’t find an organization to help, we would have a back stock of moms that would want to mentor girls, and dads that would want to mentor guys,” he explained. “First we build character then we build desire. Finding ways to show kids a path to reach their goal. Whether with mentors or schools to get you there.”
Another big concern is that in the next five years, 40 percent of the city’s employees will be retiring. “That is a huge replacement gap. We have a huge need to attract people to work for the city,” the Mayor added, “working for the city is a great place to work.”
In other areas, they are working on incentives for people to stay and create jobs in Lakeland. “Let’s say a mechanic wants to open his own auto shop, it’s a scary distance to be working for someone else and then have people working for you, running a building, plus buying tools you might need, so how do we line people up so they have some of those bridges they need and the right kind of incentives,” Mayor said. He has a vision to align people in similar industries to act as mentors to those interested in working in that field. “Jobs are what gives us stability. We need jobs, and then we need affordable housing for people to live.” Mayor Mutz added that jobs also give a person dignity, respect and a place in the community.
Lakeland is 700 units short of affordable housing in the city. “We can only place three out of 10 people that are qualified, so right now seven out of 10 are not being placed,” he explained. “We need to move into a more centric role. Most homeless people are not the stereotype of what we think homelessness is.” Mayor Mutz went on to explain that 65 percent of the current homeless are living with disrupted lives. If they had an opportunity to restabilize, they would be successful. “So, we’ve got to do a good job for those 65 percent As that happens, you build traction and you want to stay in and build a city people want to live in. In the process you care about people. You can’t do these things if you don’t care about the hearts of people.”
It’s not all about getting a job and a house, though. It’s about making a difference in people’s lives and that’s not an easy task, Mayor Mutz talked about the strength it takes.”The heavy lift is in hearts of people. The heavy lift is in making sure they understand the “whys” in moral responsibility and perseverance and productivity. Profit making is a motivator but integrity has to go along with that.” Teaching people to do the right things with the right people for the right reasons. “My grandkids are my personal opportunity cost right now. I don’t get to spend the time with my grandkids that I wish I could. I have to be available for the city in a much more restrained role than I have been able to be as an entrepreneur in the past. But you recognize those things when you accept those obligations, if you’re going to be responsible and get done what you need to get done.”
In the private sector, the mayor talked about being more interested in providing jobs and watching people grow through their careers than the money side of things. “It’s less about the industry and more about the opportunities you provide. So being mayor is a natural arena for me to take that kind of a passion and think about younger people and how are we going to get that same job done for them. What are we going to do to create those opportunities. I had just recently recognized that is what makes this job so much not a job but a passion. And an opportunity that is so fulfilling everyday. It is a privilege to do it everyday. It has never been work, even with 10 or 12 hour days, it’s not work. It’s being able to find people that have a need, and the opportunities to help are my motivator.”
What does Mayor Mutz love most about Lakeland? “Its people. Our greatest asset in Lakeland is our people.” He continued, “We are a city that loves people and cares and is very generous. So if you have that as your DNA, you can do some things that others places just can’t.”