Why a City Manager (City Administrator)?
Since long before I announced my candidacy, I have been convinced that Homewood needs a City Manager. Interestingly, since my announcement, my opponent has said that he is in favor of having a City Manager, though it was not at all mentioned in his announcement in The Homewood Star on June 12th. All he says on his website now is that he is “looking at the addition of a City Manager” and will “examine this type of position.” Where are the details of his plans for how to implement a City Manager and what specifically does he see his City Manager doing?
We are way too big for a part time Mayor to manage
The many departments that carry out the administrative functions of the city have tremendous responsibilities, employ over 500 people, and regularly interact with each other, the City Council, and our citizens. No business that size would ever survive long-term, without a full-time chief administrator, with considerable management experience.
Likewise, a city our size needs a full-time administrative manager. It turns out that “City Manager” is a position that exists in particular forms of municipal government, which are different from Homewood’s Mayor/Council form, so we will be using a different title, probably City Administrator.
Full-time department managers should not be reporting to a part-time Mayor. They need a full-time manager, to set priorities, assist with goal setting, monitor performance, and assist with problem solving.
Introducing systems and procedures improvements
The department managers and staff at City Hall have a reputation of being hard-working and having the best interest of our city at heart. But, a City Administrator, who has responsibility for “the big picture” would be in a position to see opportunities for improvements in technology, process and procedure, training, and other resources that cross departmental boundaries, throughout the entire organization.
With a City Administrator, we would see improvements such as more efficient city operations, tighter control over expenditures, consistent policies regarding purchasing and contracts with outside suppliers, compliance with proper bid procedures, and improvements in numerous other areas.
Modern city-wide communication practices supported by modern systems
Another much-needed responsibility of a City Administrator would be in the area of constituent communications. He/She would be responsible for assessment of our communication systems and strategies, identification of areas for improvement, and design and implementation of new communications systems. The goal would be to create a robust two-way communication system between the city and its citizens. Coupled with the establishment of more efficient systems would be the creation of communication strategies that would assure that all parts of our government are communicating with the public in a consistent, coordinated manner. This would greatly improve communications for our city’s operational departments, the Mayor’s office, and the City Council.
Accountability—the key to good management
Accountability would also be key to performance improvement. A fully accountable top-level manager, who works closely with the managers reporting to him/her, can create an environment in which each employee in the chain of command takes responsibility to perform at a level that assures the highest possible level of service to our citizens. It’s a matter of “workplace culture, and it starts at the top—in our case a Mayor who is fully engaged and supported by an experienced, professional top level administrator.
You shouldn’t have to call a City Councilor to get a pothole filled
As it is now, without full-time, active administrative leadership at the top, we are seeing evidence of inefficient services that result in, for example, City Councilors performing customer service activities through social media, such as acting as the citizens’ point of contact for such mundane occurrences as reporting inconveniences created by utility contractors to substandard street repairs. Hardly a day goes by that we don’t witness this happening. The city should have procedures in place, supported by communication systems (web portals, apps, social media tools, etc.) that allow citizens to quickly and easily access city services.
In most cities, when members of the City Council are contacted by citizens to access routine services, it means that government departments have failed to fulfill their responsibility to the public. In Homewood, it’s just the way the city does business, but it’s not the departments’ fault. It’s lack of a systems and procedures approach that comes from the top down. Good upper management can solve that problem.
Economic development must be centralized and prioritized
A City Administrator would also participate in economic development activities, which are, by State Law, the responsibility of the Mayor’s office, not the City Council. My goal would be to identify a City Administrator with experience with economic development. Depending on their level of experience they would either head up economic development activities or manage development projects conducted by carefully vetted consultants. As has been widely discussed, during this election season, there are multiple areas in Homewood that need attention, from an economic development perspective. Economic development requires a lot of collaboration among the Mayor’s office, the City Council, and city departments. It also often requires the expertise of consultants outside the city government. Coordination of these activities is a responsibility of significant proportions, and must be centralized, to achieve efficiency and effectiveness. The City Administrator is the logical person to do this.
Greater city effectiveness and cost efficiency
When you realize the level of responsibility that a City Administrator would have, it becomes easy to see why it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, for a part-time Mayor to carry it out properly, even assisted by a chief of staff. It also becomes easier to see why having these responsibilities dispersed among the Mayor, City Council, and city departments is an extremely inefficient way to run the city government.
As you consider all that could be accomplished by a City Administrator, the cost that position would add to the city budget would be more than covered by improved opportunity costs such as operational efficiencies, tighter budget control, and the higher service levels to the citizens that would be achieved.
Copyright © 2020 Chrislaneformayor - All Rights Reserved.
PAID FOR BY THE COMMITTEE TO ELECT Chris Lane FOR MAYOR.
2 Metroplex Dr Ste 200
HOMEWOOD, AL 35209
Powered by GoDaddy Website Builder