Curtis: Tonight it is our honor to sit down with Mayor Scott Fadness of the city of Fishers. Thank you for being here tonight
Scott: Glad to be here.
Curtis: First of all, tell me about your travels to becoming mayor. Interesting because Fishers was not a city all that long ago. So what was that process like for you, becoming mayor of a new city.
Scott: Well a lot of people may not know this, but I actually started as an intern for the town of Fishers.
Scott: And have been in a variety of roles with the town leading up to becoming town manager. And then the residents of Fishers decided that they were getting large enough, they really wanted to transition to being a city. When that occurs you have to elect a mayor and so I stepped into the arena of politics for the first time in my life and ran for mayor. So I get to always be known I guess as the first mayor of Fishers.
Curtis: Yeah, that’s pretty cool.
Curtis: Is it what you expected? What does life look like for you versus what you thought it would look like as mayor?
Scott: The day-to-day tasks of running the town are much what I thought it would be like in terms of what I was doing before as town manager and then being mayor. I think what has taken more time and probably more challenge than I would have ever imagined is usually more of the leadership component. Trying to lead your city toward a vision. Articulating what that looks like, and really speaking on issues that I care about and think are important to the long-term viability of our city.
Curtis: Let’s talk about one of those issues. That’s mental health. Across the country, we have seen the needs of mental health services go up and we’ve seen mental health be much more on everyone’s radar. In Fishers what have you seen from your population here over the past few years, especially inside of the pandemic, has mental health been something that has been coming up more and more for your citizens?
Scott: You know we started an initiative several years ago when I learned that for instance in my community in the last 20 years at that time, we had 3 homicides, but in that particular year more than 13 people had taken their own lives.
Scott: And if we compare the amount of effort and time we put into crime reduction compared to what we did for mental health, there was no comparison. And so we really went through quite an extensive process to try to understand how we could mobilize our collective resources toward mental health, and I think we’ve made a lot of progress. But then Covid hit, and in the first several months of the Covid pandemic we had 2 murder-suicides in our community and so we had some immediate emergent issues with people that find themselves in domestic situations where they were all cooped up in the home and those family dynamics weren’t good and things were happening. But recently I read an article about the overwhelming issues of mental health that we were starting to see because I don’t think people have really processed what they’ve gone through and some of that stress and some of that anxiety and just coming to terms of what the last two years looked like. How they felt. How exhausted they are. We have yet to even scratch the surface of what that’s going to look like.
Curtis: Yeah, there’s kind of a delayed effect to it. So you’re seeing that in Fishers as well.
Scott: Yeah. I think it’s human nature right. So when you’re in the midst of it you’re just trying to deal with logistics. How am I going to deal with the next thing coming at me? It’s when the world slows down long enough for you to absorb what it is just you’ve just gone through. I think it starts to weigh on people. I think we’re going to start to see that, and I think we’re already starting to see that. We gotta be prepared for that.
Curtis: I’m curious. Did those incidents where you had some very public murder-suicides. One would be a very public event. Two is certainly grabbing the attention of everyone. Did that help in any way to decrease the stigma to make more people willing to talk about these issues more openly and publicly?
Scott: I don’t think at the time. Just because it was right in the midst of Covid and everyone was just dealing with that issue. I think we have to be brave enough to just have an open conversation about the fact that there are people in our community, even though we are an affluent community, we are an educated community, that we’re struggling. Mental health is not owned by the poor. It’s not owned by people that are for some reason have some kind of character flaw. I mean it transcends economic boundaries, racial boundaries. So we really need to have an open discussion about it like we would any other health issue and realize that if we worked together collectively we can address these issues.
Curtis: You seem quite comfortable to have that conversation. Are others in Fishers joining you in it or has that been a struggle pulling them into the conversation?
Scott: No, I think it’s been really inspiring for me over the last 5 years to have this conversation and see the response from the community. I’ve chalked that up to a couple of things. Primarily, I chalk it up to the fact that it’s relatable. So although people weren’t openly communicating about it, when I stepped forward or others stepped forward as community leaders, and said this is something we need to address. This is a problem in our community. I think [when] we can relate it back to their mother who might be bipolar or their daughter who is dealing with depression or anxiety. Or their son who had issues. I think when people can relate it back to their own home, that motivates them or mobilizes them to step forward and I just saw that time and time again. Every time I’d have these conversations, afterward someone would come up to me and say look I’m dealing with this. I’m struggling with this. My family is dealing with this. So it reaffirms that this is certainly something that warrants us spending a lot of time and energy on.
Curtis: You talked earlier about painting a picture. Casting a vision. That’s your role as mayor. In this space how do you do that? How do you help paint the picture of being a healthier city, a healthier community?
Scott: Two-fold. One, you have to be able to deal with emergent issues. So I want our first responders, our people, to be the most equipped and the most enabled to deal with people in a mental health crisis in a compassionate and competent way. I think we’ve come a long way in that regard. So when a 911 call comes in, when our people step on the scene, they’re addressing that person in a mental health crisis as if they’re someone in a mental health crisis. Beyond that, we have to create a culture in our community where people do not hesitate to go get the help they need because of a stigma or a cultural phenomenon we have. We need to make sure that we make this an open dialogue. Just as if you broke your arm or you hurt your leg, you walk in to get service. You know that if you deal with it sooner, you’re going to have a better outcome than if you’ve done it later. I think we still have some work to do on that front, but we’ve come a long way and we’ll continue to advocate to get to that ultimate vision.
Curtis: I suspect that one of the ways, one of the prisms that you look at life through, maybe more than being a mayor, is being a father. You and I have one thing in common. We each have 3 sons.
Curtis: Yours are slightly younger than mine. 6,3, and1. When you think about this world that they’re inheriting, that they’re living in now – I assume that is a huge motivational factor for you to make it a better place.
Scott: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I want to teach my kids the skillsets to be resilient and part of that is understanding and dealing with your own mental health. And then ultimately I want to create an environment that if one of my sons happen to be struggling, then I’ve created an environment that’s the most hospitable for them to go seek the help they need. And that may be me, and I hope it’s me. If it’s not it’s a school counsellor. It’s a faith leader. It’s someone who is willing to be there for them in that moment, and if we can create those environments I think we can keep a lot of bad things from happening.
Curtis: You have a lot of downtime in your life don’t you. Mayor and young kids.
Scott: Yeah. It’s two of the best jobs in the world. As you know.
Curtis: I do know. Well, not the mayor part.
Scott: But the dad part you get.
Curtis: The dad part I get. Scott thank you so much for being here. A great conversation. Thank you so much for what you’re doing in the city of Fishers.
Scott: Thank you.