I confess that I am a Facebook voyeur. I don’t belong, but I do peek occasionally to see what is going on.
For some time now, I have been watching the public forum, “Osawatomie News and Events.” Since we no longer have a local newspaper, this site is a way to stay fairly current with happenings in Oz. Friend Larry Byers, a former hometown boy, administers the site, and he has raised an interesting issue related to the recent resignation of the Osawatomie city manager.
Larry asked readers to come up with some short and long-term goals for a new manager. So far, the answers have been organized around four main points: the need for open, two-way communication with residents, the need to attend to deteriorating streets and property maintenance, the need to increase economic development efforts and the need to appear transparent, without hidden agendas. I can agree with all of these.
The job of a city manager has to be incredibly difficult. By definition, the person in that position is answerable to the city council while administering the business of the city. In truth, this particular job is the “middle manager’s nightmare” for there are as many bosses as there are residents of the city.
In Osawatomie’s case, those bosses are a varied group. Many are verbal, concerned only with their own property rights; others, not always so outspoken, want what’s good for the community. Older folks have different concerns than do younger families. Those who live and work here are affected differently than are those who work away and return to what could easily become a bedroom community.
All of us, I think, want good schools for our children. To do that, we need a reasonable tax base and, with the recent loss of several businesses, that is threatened. Our new city manager will have to deal with that situation and its implications.
We definitely need a grocery store. We need to develop the Northland before that agreement expires, and we need some unifying force to galvanize and inform our citizenry. Can our churches and organizations do that, or will that fall to the council? There are many concerns and questions.
I want a manager who is capable and concerned, who is able to identify residents who can help our city succeed. I want someone who will be fairly visible and not cloistered in city hall. I want someone who knows statutes and laws and all things related to governance of municipalities and who can share that knowledge with the council, city employees and residents. We have had people with these qualifications and they have been greatly missed when they have left.
Oz got its first city manager back in 1964, coming late to the mayor-council-manager form of government. That was a hotly-contested issue at the time, but it was necessary because the lay persons elected to the council did not have training in public administration. They still don’t. It’s true that candidates for council positions haven’t applied in large numbers for their ward seats, but I want to believe, as a council-person friend recently assured me, “that each has his/her own skill set” that contributes to decision-making.
So, here we are once again, seeking a qualified manger who can help put our “Humpty-Dumpty town” together again. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if the person selected could also walk on water. You know we will have another flood.