Today is election day. I am sure that by this time, most everyone in our town is ready for it all to be over with. Personally, I am looking forward to getting some of the immediate uncertainty out of the way. As an elected official, I am growing increasingly aware of some of the hurdles that face others like me as we try to make positive impacts on our (large or small) spheres of influence.
When I hit the ground in April, I had a few short term goals. I wanted an agreement reached with our fire and police unions. I wanted our fire department to have an increase in personnel, as in my opinion it had reached some dangerously low levels. I wanted more community involvement and cooperation. All of these goals seem to be met, but none of them were as simple as mayor and council stating these goals and then achieving them. Meeting these goals took effort, time, and research.
Next on my list is accomplishing a full evaluation of city employees, from top to bottom. These evaluations are underway, but are not without their fair share of hiccups. We have a fantastic city work force that by-and-large wants to do great things for Lebanon. Evaluations and progress reports are my way of developing an even stronger work ethic and cultivating a leadership culture that focuses on taking care of customers and subordinates.
The top-down approach is extremely important. How many of us have worked in environments where the leadership seems to play by different rules than the first line of employees? I know I can't be the only person that has worked in this environment in the past.
This is why our elected officials are important! Mayor and city council are elected to be directly accountable to the voter. We are held to a standard by the voters, and in turn we are to hold city staff to a standard.
Unfortunately, past politics in our town have caused a bit of an overreaction, which took authority from elected officials and placed it in the hands of a full-time, professional city administrator. We now have what I assess to be a broken link in how our local democracy is supposed to work. It is increasingly difficult for the town to affect true change in a rigged system. Does this sound like our political system at a national level?
I have not given up, though. I believe our town can strike the appropriate balance between elected official accountability and a professional city administrator that is a facilitator to those elected officials.
I will continue to do my research and work in the environment I am given in order to achieve a goal of truly accountable local government, but I will inform the citizens that I am currently in no way, shape or form, the supervisor of the city administrator, which was the initial design of our city government when it changed to a city administrator form. In my opinion, council is supposed to be the mayor's checks and balances, while the mayor is supposed to be the city administrator's. My assertion of this opinion may not be a popular one with our current administration.
How can you help restore the balance between mayor/city council.city administrator? When you've recovered from voting in this crazy election cycle, prepare to vote again in April in the municipal elections with an eye toward restoring full government representation of the citizens.
Until then, continue to remind your elected officials that you want them in true control of our city government.