Our day to day operations of the city are carried out by a large group of city workers, and the city council has appointed our city manager to oversee that work. Many people believe that I manage our city employees, but the job of the Mayor and council (as outlined by our charter) is to set policy. The city manager (Dan) is tasked with carrying out that policy. In the 7 years I have been part of the city governing authority, we have put forth countless proposals, policy changes, and expectations for Dan to accomplish. Each and every time, he has ensured the job got done.
I am writing this because I have been accused by a fellow councilman of wanting to fire our city manager. That claim has been circulated and gotten back to me numerous times. Some took my opposition to a charter change (requiring 5 votes instead of a 3 vote majority to remove the city manager) as evidence I wanted to move in that direction. While I spoke out against giving the city manager more authority than a voting majority of the elected body, it was not because I didn’t have faith in Dan to perform his duties. In fact, I only have evidence to the contrary. I cannot point to one specific time he has not come through regarding a directive from the council or even a request from me personally.
Of course, we have had disagreements along the way. That will continue to happen. I don’t believe I will be mistaken for anyone’s blank check. I also don’t want a false narrative perpetuated that I’m lobbying to get a new city manager. Issues that I have with Dan or any other city employee are handled in house in a respectful manner. If anyone has an issue with the direction of the city, that should be directed toward our elected body who is in charge of policy and appointing the city manager. Each and every thing we do in local government is set out through votes on the council. I always listen to, consider, and even sometimes agree with criticisms we receive about employees or city work. A mayor should be seen as someone citizens can go to, in confidence, with concerns. Hearing out those issues and respecting opinions isn’t always followed by agreement on how to proceed.
Navigating small town politics has been the hardest part of this job. People you have never met are ready to believe the most wonderful or awful things they hear about you. There are people equally ready to celebrate your successes and slam you for your mistakes. I do like to address and put to rest untruths as they come up, but even that can be a mine field. If you would like to talk to me about this issue or any other city business, please feel free to call me at 423-653-7446. There is no need to assume.