I would like to take the opportunity to thank Chief Mike Williams for a job well done. Even though I am long since gone from East Ridge City government, I occasionally get phone calls reporting situations that need to be addressed. Recently, I received such a call from the daughter of an elderly lady needing assistance with an injured animal on her front porch. There had been some type of communications break down between her and city employees. Chief Williams was very quick to respond to me and actually called me while he was on his way to address the problem. I’m not exactly sure what the resolution was. However, I didn’t hear anymore from the initial caller, so it’s safe to assume that the issue was resolved to her satisfaction. I would like to publicly thank Chief Williams and also put some other things into perspective.
Having served on the council for many years myself, I understand the frustrations that can accompany the position. When I was on the council, I understood that I could not give an order to any of the employees. I have often heard that statement followed by: “except the City Manager.” The truth of the matter is no Councilmember can give an order to the City Manager. That statement is most always followed by: “except in a council meeting.” The truth of the matter is that no councilmember can give an order to the City Manager, expect in a council meeting with a majority of the council voting in favor of the motion that is made, giving the order. City Council Members are not the “boss” over the City Manager. The City Council could be considered the “boss”, but only as a body, not individually. I could say a lot about the title of “boss”, but won’t. Learning to be a leader, rather than a “boss” is great achievement.
The position of City Manager is one of the hardest there is, in this form of government. It never fails, when one or more Councilmembers feel that they are not getting their way, they start recruiting other members to feel the same way. The next step is to find someone to fill the position of City Manager that will give them their way. Very seldom is a City Manager fired for not following a directive given to him by the Council in an open meeting. I am reminded of one of the basics of leadership: Praise in public and criticize in private. Trying to embarrass the City Manager in a public meeting does not show good leadership and should be discouraged by citizens and Councilmembers alike.
I told Mike, when he took the interim position to beware. I told him that the first time he didn’t please individual Council Members, they would be ready to replace him. I don’t know what has happened, but I would almost be willing to bet that his road to demise is because he would not follow the direction of an individual Council Member and not that of council as a whole. This letter is not intended to be overly critical of any Member of the Council, as I consider them each a good friend. However, they each need to understand that not a single one of them is “the boss”.
I would also urge the citizens of East Ridge to be vigilant and try to remain positive. As anyone on social media can attest, the word “good morning” can often wind up in a feud. Councilmembers often make decisions with more information than you have been given on FaceBook. Find out why they made a certain decision before criticizing them. It’s not easy to sit on the council and get criticized for everything that you do. And rest assured, nobody on that council is getting rich, either. They don’t enjoy spending sleepless nights working toward a decision that is going to upset at least a portion of the community. Nearly every decision they make is met with opposition. Remember, just because you like or dislike a proposal does not mean that the majority of citizens feel the same way. I recently read a statement from someone that they wanted a member of the council to represent their views. That person should run for office to insure that happens. Even when elected, you must sometime go against your own personal views and do what is right. Government has to be run within the law and not on emotions. Get the facts and try and put yourself in their position before you criticize. Again, praise in public and criticize in private. After all, we the citizens are their “bosses”.
The City of East Ridge is on the threshold of great things. Every time I hear of another business coming to East Ridge, I hear the criticisms and the “well, what we need is…..….” Or “we have enough………already, we don’t need another one.” What we really don’t need more of is empty buildings. I laughed once when I heard criticism of the colors one certain industry uses on their buildings. I guess we don’t pay attention to the color of the fast food chains.
I already know that posting this on social media will no doubt draw many negative comments. I don’t mind at all. After all, we each have an opinion. Mine just happens to be from serving in elected office for the past 20 years. Before you criticize mine, think of where yours comes from.