Thursday, November 8, 2007

My Counsel to the Council: Wait Until the Next Regularly Scheduled Meeting

So finding a new city manager will apparently be slightly less complicated than electing a new Pope ...

If the impetus to find a permanent city manager has been caused by sudden cold feet that have resulted from a certain newspaper account of the finalists, then this process has already hit a considerable snag.

First, look at the last 48 hours:

Two days ago the NW published a report noting that the local finalist for the interim city manager position would take the job (if offered) provided that his current employer allowed him to take a leave of absence of the length of his term as temporary head of City Hall. Within 24 hours the local candidate retires from his current, effective almost a year from hence, persumably negating the condition about his current employer offer him a leave of absence as a prerequisite for accepting the interim manager gig. Within hours of that report we suddenly have an offer to bypass the interim manager hiring process entirely and get straight to the permanent position.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time to take a field trip to Crazytown, so I hope you're sitting in a comfortable place in your panic rooms with your tinfoil hats affixed firmly to your scalps, for this one.

At the moment there's a chance that the city council will walk out of today's 10:30 meeting having just voted (at least) 4-2 to scrap plans to look for an interim manager. Let's pretend that happens. I think it's not unreasonable to assume that Mr. Pearson will also be applying for the permanent city manager position regardless of what happens to the interim position. I hope he does. I think a development background will be an asset for the next manager.

Right now, almost entirely because the NW decided to play a game of gotcha! with the roll-out of the interim finalists, Pearson's potential nomination (or whatever you want to call it) to the post could be perceived as a perpetuation of the "good old boys club" by the council. The other four candidates were portrayed as being so flawed by the NW that it looks (and let me stress that again: appears, seems, etc.) like the other candidates -- the guys from out of town, mind you -- were selected to fail. Someone will inevitably make this connection.

Now leaving Crazytown ...

The sad thing is that there is absolutely no reason to believe this. I seriously doubt that the council did anything but look at the resumes that were submitted to them and whittle the long list down to a handful of finalists of whom they thought had the best credentials and would be the best fit for the city. Unfortunately, some crackpot will see things differently. If that happens a potentially well-qualified local candidate for the position will have been given the shaft.

Tony Palmeri supports finding an interim manager as a stop-gap measure for an already overburdened acting manager:"An acting city manager, especially one who already has other responsibilities in city hall, is in no position to take a leadership role in key economic development, supervisory, and other issues facing the city." He also points to Jonathan Kruase, who notes the change of gov't crew is still a variable that needs to be worked into the current equation. Miles Maguire wants to know why we just didn't keep Wollangk on as "interim" manager, thus saving the city the need to send him off with a severance package ... all are valid points.

Frankly, this all seems unnecessarily complicated to me and it all stems from a refusal by a vocal few to see the search for a permanent city manager as an investment in the city's future. I would personally prefer the council to take as long as they need to find the best city manager they can find. Even if they find someone right under their noses, a methodical and expansive search will have not[*] been without merit. Anyone who thought the city can do this on the cheap and expect stellar results is fooling themselves.

City managers in Oshkosh have a track record for sticking around for a long time, so it would be best to get this done correctly rather than quickly. I'm not crazy about the the use of the hurry-up offense in this case. If the council meeting was called in such haste that even a member of the council can't make it -- then the odds that there has been enough time for adequate community input are pretty slim. The council should put off a vote to bypass the the interim city manager search until the next scheduled council meeting.

[*] CORRECTION: Originally, the "not" was omitted from this sentence. Obviously, that changes its meaning. Many regrets, etc.


Babblemur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Babblemur said...

"Anyone who thought the city can do this on the cheap and expect stellar results is fooling themselves."

I agree. I don't know about "stellar results", but if we scrap the City Manager "professional government" system and replace it with a traditional Mayor-Alderman form of government, finding the next chief executive costs only as much as an election.

(sorry for the deleted comment, I mis-spelled a word that made me look 'alliterate'.)