FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry (D) is asked a lot of questions. On the October day WANE 15’s Dirk Rowley job shadowed the mayor, the most unexpected question might have come from a student at Towles Elementary.

“Why isn’t there a toy store downtown?”

The mayor deftly answers that he would like to see that, too. He’s had plenty of practice answering questions since 2007 when he began as mayor. Plus, he enjoys meeting with the first, second and third graders. “One of the nice things about talking to young children at that age is they don’t have a hidden agenda,” Henry says. “In fact, their only agenda is this innocent curiosity about this man that they’re talking to who happens to be the mayor of a city.”

The mayor’s agenda that day begins with an 8 a.m. meeting of Fort Wayne small business owners over coffee and bagels. The diverse group gathers around a table large enough for social distancing but small enough to update the mayor on the problems they face. The conversation is polite, even from those business owners in the group who are fighting to stay open.

“It’s just been unbelievable how many businesses continue to not only operate but in some cases thrive,” the mayor says afterward. “There’s this real mix of the economic development environment. We’ve got those businesses that are doing very well and yet we have some businesses who are really hurting.”

The mayor says he learned a lot and took copious notes. “We have not done a good job in letting our small businesses know what’s available to them as far as small business loans and the like. I’m not sure that many of them know how to get access to city contracts. I think the city can better inform small businesses about how to navigate.”

The day includes a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the straightening of State Blvd. between Clinton and Wells. For most public appearances, the mayor drives himself with an assistant riding shotgun in his GM sedan. He tells the dozens gathered about his nearby sandbagging efforts during the historic flood of 1983. “Unfortunately, we put them in the wrong area so they didn’t do us any good. Homes still flooded.”

Paperwork greets the mayor as he returns to his desk. After a walk to lunch, he’s briefed by Stephanie Crandall, his Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. In about 20 minutes, she sums up proposals in Indianapolis and Washington D.C. that could impact Fort Wayne. It’s the most policy-driven part of the day, which seems to be by design.

“Fortunately I have a tremendous cabinet,” the mayor explains, when asked to assess his management style. “I have about 10 division directors, and each division obviously has a certain amount of employees within that division, whether it’s the police department, the fire department, Parks Department or Department of Public Works. Each one of those division directors are superb in what they do. They many times make me look a lot better than what I really am. I can leave a lot in their hands. I don’t believe in micromanaging. I think you hire people that are smarter than you to run certain areas and I think they’ve done a tremendous job. That allows me to go out into the community, to meet with business leaders, to meet with school students. It gives me a lot more flexibility to meet the overall needs of the city and not have to worry about specific operations.”

Mayor Henry later attends an economic development meeting that is off limits to the press, ending his day after 5 p.m. The 69-year-old is in his fourth term, which will end in January of 2024. He has said he will not run again.