Thank you for visiting our website

Featuring breaking political news and commentary on local, state, and national issues.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The City of Frederick Administrative Structure Deserves Examination

George Wenschhof

One of the more important functions of a mayor in The City of Frederick is the ability, with the consent of the aldermen, to develop the city organization personnel structure. The examination of the current organizational chart along with the responsibilities of positions is something an incoming mayor should immediately undertake.

For, it is a strong and efficient organization that will ultimately be responsible for implementing a new mayor's goals and objectives while continuing to provide the necessary services to the public.

It was surprising to me, when I threw out this question to all three Democratic candidates for mayor when I conducted my live online interviews prior to the primary, that none of them spent any significant time answering the question. Their interviews are still linked in the right hand margin of my homepage.

I threw out three titles (city manager, public information officer, and intergovernmental affairs director) of positions hoping to generate some discussion on the merits of them or others. I had also hoped for the acknowledgement and further elaboration into the importance of an efficient organization as it is commonly accepted that lean finances will be a major obstacle for the next mayor and board.

Not one candidate chose to discuss the need for an Intergovernmental Affairs Director in spite of example after example of a glaring need to have this position in city hall. The position would be responsible for improving relations between the city, the federal government, state government and county government. Along the way, this person would also be identifying and working to secure available grants that would be beneficial to the city.

The recent annexation debacle with elected city, county, and state officials in disagreement is a perfect example of how this position may have been beneficial. The annexation and approval of a new development does not address the problems facing much of the residential and commercial development in the west end of the city.

Prior to proceeding with even the Summers farm annexation on the west side, the city would be better served to examine ways other similar sized and located cities have redeveloped an area similar to the west side faced with many of the same issues. Incorporating the planned development of the Summers farm into an overall larger master redevelopment plan for the west end of the city makes more sense.

Another position I asked the candidates about was a city manager. A chief of staff position to the mayor makes more sense and would certainly be helpful. This position would also aid in clear lines of communication between department heads and the mayor. What has happened in the past when a mayor does not want to go through the hassle of obtaining aldermen approval for a new position, an existing position is filled, but the mayor has the hired individual take on different responsibilities. A current example is Ron Tobin who actually serves in a manner similar to a chief of staff to the mayor, but has another title.

A public information officer is certainly a positive and in this day of Internet capabilities, could be a person to manage both the city website along with providing information to the public. Continuing to improve communications through the Internet between departments and citizens should be a priority for the incoming administration.

I throw these three positions out for consideration as examples of what the incoming mayor and board should be examining immediately upon assuming office. Perhaps a committee should be formed and tasked with reviewing the current administrative structure of city government. This would be better than being faced with freezing vacant positions or cutting positions without an overall plan as a result of financial revenue shortfalls. The committee report and recommendations should be submitted to the mayor and board within 30-60 days of their taking office so action can be taken swiftly.

More efficient government will be a requirement in the immediate years ahead as the country and the world continues to recover from the severe recession. In the city, we can do our part by reviewing the existing governmental structure and making those revisions necessary for more effective services.

Even in days of good economic times, a mayor's goals and visions are aided by a strong and effective administrative structure. Let's hope this examination is undertaken by the new mayor and board.


To receive "Daily Updates" from Air-it-Out with George Wenschhof, click on "Subscribe to this feed" below.

No comments: