One Direction, the English-Irish boy band, is one of the world’s biggest losers. In 2010, the youthful ensemble lost in the finals of Britain’s “The X-Factor” to earn third place. That didn’t stop them, however, from going on to become an international phenomenon and household brand. The key to their explosive success? Building upon connections with a very loyal fan base.
Thomas Richards, the now former mayor of Rochester, N.Y., might learn something from One Direction’s epic run. Like “The X-Factor’s” greatest contender, Richards could begin to use his own loyal base, which led to an unofficial campaign and robust turnout in last year’s general election. These same groups could help kick-off his second act, or in the case of Richards, a former executive and public official, his fourth or fifth act. If able to attract thousands of people to the polls without any real campaigning, imagine if Richards used this level of influence to launch an organized effort around his call for a broader constituency.
Think of it as an opportunity to establish a localized version of the Clinton Global Initiative, but without the underlying sense of redemption that comes with President Bill Clinton’s post-White House legacy. Richards, armed with the right message and backed by past supporters, could serve as an unofficial ambassador of the City among neighborhoods where his pro-business, fiscally-responsible approach to governing may also draw appeal with suburban, GOP-leaning residents.
Just as President Clinton became a strong supporter of his wife’s former rival and other Democrats in the 2012 election, Richards could eventually evolve into a similar, informal role outside of the Warren administration around broader economic issues as the City itself simultaneously focuses inward on top priorities of education and public safety. What he lacks in Clinton-like charm or charisma, Richards makes up for in his ability to command a room full of decision makers thanks to decades of experience as an executive and attorney.
If Richards wishes to avoid unintentional interference with the Warren administration in the local community, alternatives might be found at the state level. One example is the Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments, which was commissioned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo late last year to help solve fiscal problems at the municipal level. While this hand-picked group is currently at full-capacity (10 total representatives from around New York State, including former Syracuse mayor Matt Driscoll), Richards would have made a strong candidate had he not been serving as mayor for the City of Rochester at the time of its formation.
To literally follow the One Direction playbook, Richards could record his own version of the boy band’s platinum debut single “What Makes You Beautiful” to serve as an anthem for Rochester’s underdog status and under appreciated assets. All jokes aside, regardless of his next move, it would be a shame if Richards’ talents and passion for service were not put to use to help solve the woes of the Rochester region.