Wednesday, September 30, 2009

City Managers - A dance of the lemons?

City managers, as all top government managers, often become a lightning rod, taking hits when things go wrong, when citizens become upset and when commission members want to place blame.

Mahaney was hired in part because he was calmer, nicer, more open, and less autocratic than Larry Deetjen. He was also seen as someone to right the ship, slow things down and give everyone time to catch their breath.

Past commission decisions had handed Mahaney a city with spending that had to be reined in and with a stranglehold of employee contracts that give the word generous a bad name. He was so frugal that he almost worked himself into exhaustion before finally hiring an assistant.

While Googling the problems city managers have I found the basics of why they have problems said by a city manager in Hurst Texas:

"The downside of being a city manager is, you're at the whim of your political bosses," Hurst, Texas City Manager Allan Weegar said."When things are going great, things are good with you and your relationship with that city council. When there are issues, you can always be brought in as a reason why things are going bad. That's why the city management profession is a fairly short-lived tenure."

So what’s up with Mahaney and our current commission? He has kept our finances under control and our bond ratings way up there. He has faults, who doesn’t? Trying to please 5 bosses is a “pleasure” which, thank goodness, I have never had to endure, and I don’t envy him that role.

Let’s even say he has a lot of faults, I have heard lack of communication, lack of managing by “walking around”, carelessness and a few other things. Maybe so, but we are on good footing compared to most other Florida cities, we have not laid any employees off, when requested he trimmed the budget so we don’t have to raise the fire fee (which is one of the things that affects all of us, even if we pay very low property taxes), and the millage rate is livable, especially considering surrounding cities.

So how bad is he? Maybe the commissioners need to give a little and stop micromanaging and talking to staff, and maybe Mahaney needs to communicate better.

We should avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water. What is out there by way of unemployed city managers, from the makeup of the group we interviewed the last time, is no great shakes. This commission needs to calm down and try some counseling before getting a divorce.

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