After close to two years of keeping the seat warm it has become City Manager Andrew Hyatt’s time to depart for sandier pastures.
Our city’s perpetual game of musical chairs to fill the City Manager seat will once again begin. Oh you know what… The nerd in me just missed a very obvious Game Of Thrones reference… Alas, I’m sure you get the picture.
With the City Council’s maneuvering, Fire Chief Mike Williams is now days away from filling the spot pro tempore so it will not have much time to cool off. As we begin the quest to find the next candidate, the question is what went wrong? Like any good philosophical question the answer depends entirely on whom you ask.
To some, Mr. Hyatt simply realized he could make the same amount of money he does now managing a beach and town of 7,000 people that is harmonious and has a reputation for keeping City Managers until they retire. Why did he leave? Well, maybe he was bored, maybe he was in over his head, or maybe he simply missed living in that area of Florida.
To others, Mr. Hyatt was a dedicated and hard-working City Manager who shockingly treated the city employees like, well, employees. He didn’t play favorites, and tried to call it as he saw it. Unfortunately he ran into stumbling blocks along the way, three to be precise, all of which had the power to thumbs up or thumbs down his next $100,000 contract renewal. So, like any smart person, when they read the writing on the wall he got while the getting was good.
Based on East Ridge tradition, it doesn’t matter why he left. Andrew Hyatt quit for whatever his reason, which due to the sacred secret sworn oath of city manager brotherhood, it will never be revealed. So its time to move on, and we have a seat warmer lined up. I guess we can find another City Manager who has nothing else better to do than to hang out in East Ridge for a year or two while perfecting his resume and looking for his own beach.
Really, why not? It’s not like we have a multi-million dollar development going on. We certainly do not have to skillfully and tactfully exclude certain businesses from the Boarder Region Act to mitigate our risk and ensure the act that will be the “boon” for East Ridge not the “bust”. Our council, when left to their own devices, makes skillful and tactful business decisions on behalf of the taxpayers while closely examining everything so they don’t accidentally cost the taxpayers $600,000 later on.
Yes, if I haven’t made it clear, in my opinion, it’s a horrible time to lose a City Manager.
Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. When it comes to finding a city manager East Ridge definitely is slightly insane. We continue to search and hire people to fill the role and subsequently drive them out of town and wonder why they left.
The insanity has to stop. It’s not good for the employees, its not good for business, and ultimately that means its not good for the people of this city.
Businesses like to establish themselves in areas that, yes, have high traffic, but they also like areas that are economically and politically stable. They will live long past any council member’s term limit and need to know that the deals and things they are putting into place will not be ripped away by the next guy to keep the seat warm.
They like things stable, predictable. Boring to businesses smells like money.
Employees need stability, security, and structure. When the methods, procedures, and policies change with the holder of the seat, it can be upsetting and unproductive to the employees that keep the wheels on this bus spinning. By no means am I saying they deserve to be coddled. They are employees performing a job for a wage. They should always be acting in ways that have the city’s best interest in mind, and limit the city’s exposure to any unneeded liability through careless acts. If they cannot handle conducting themselves in such a manor or preforming the task for which they receive their wage, then they are free to look elsewhere for gainful employment.
So how do we find a candidate that can live up to the monumental task of running this city and quite possibly stick around a while?
The International City/County Manager Association did a study asking managers who had stayed in their positions for long periods of time to rank seven factors in order of importance to help discover what influences a city manager to stay. According to a paper published in 2003, the International City/County Management Association concluded that:
“For a manager to remain in one city for a long time, a number of factors must come together. First, the manager probably will be a person who grew up in that community or one close by, will have a high level of education, and will value a stable environment for his or her family.
Second, the community will more than likely be a smaller, homogeneous city where there is political stability. Part of the stability will likely be a supportive mayor who also has served for a long time. Third, the elected officials will support council-manager government and will provide latitude to the manager to do his or her job.”
Wow! Two paragraphs, but it sums it up pretty well.
The idea they discovered was that managers must gel with the community they are moving into. Family stability, or not wanting to relocate children away from friends or good schools had a significant impact. This, along with life in the community, ranked 4th and 5th highest in the study. Managers would have to receive an extremely good offer from another city to entice them to leave a comfortable community and uproot the family stability.
Job satisfaction and political stability ranked 1st and 2nd in the study, but are almost seemingly tied together. How could a manager be satisfied with their job without a stable political environment to work? It was also suggested that the long tenure of Mayors in these communities might have helped also to create a stable environment for the manager.
The third factor was that the managers felt strongly that they had to have the authority to manage if they were to be held accountable and if they were to be effective. According to the ICMA, a typical response from a 20-year manager was: “I’ve always been able to do my job without undue interference from elected officials…. A competent individual needs to be given the opportunity and time to earn the respect of his or her governing body, and then be allowed to proceed with confidence in preforming the tasks at hand.”
What manager can effectively lead or manage when they are constantly being questioned about their every action? They need to be allowed to do their job and have their authority respected. Our city council needs to stick to the function of setting policy as assigned to it by the City Charter, and stay out of personnel maters. If an employee has a problem or grievance, they can take that up with the personnel committee.
A divided house cannot stand, and by allowing council to get involved in personnel matters because “that’s their buddy” it only:
A. Perpetuates the idea that East Ridge is stuck in the good ‘ole boy system.
B. Encourages further discord because councilman X has “got our back.”
C. Just plain makes the city look dysfunctional.
If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. Let’s try something else. Let’s get a city manager that plans to retire in East Ridge. Let’s get someone who is smart, passionate, and professional. The city council should consider creating a committee to help go through resumes of potential candidates, to make phone calls and see exactly who would be a good fit.
Let’s work to choose the path that doesn’t just keep the seat warm.