Downsizing city commission

Matt Westerhold
Apr 28, 2014

 

The great debate about shrinking government could get underway tomorrow during the Sandusky City Commission meeting.

A proposal to reduce the number of commissioners from seven to five could be discussed some, but likely will get approval from a majority on commission.

Six of the seven commissioners told the Register earlier this month they intended to vote it forward so residents could decide as early as November, in a citywide vote.

The other measure commissioners might review concerns term limits, and letting voters decide whether they should be abolished.

Term limits were voted in decades ago, and force commissioners to step down after two 4-year terms. They can run again after sitting out one full term.

If both measures make it to the ballot it will generate an interesting conversation among residents, whether downsizing commission will result in more competitive races and stronger candidates, or have some different kind of impact.

It also will make for an interesting election year in 2015 if voters were to approve, reducing the number of open commission seats next year from four to just two.

One thing for sure, it will be competitive if that happens, with former Commissioner Dave Waddington already a likely candidate.

Former commissioner Diedre Cole might also opt in next year and be a candidate again.

Julie Farrar will be term-limited out, and commissioners Wes Poole, Jeff Smith and Scott Schell all face a tough re-election year.

Schell's new on commission, having replaced Keith Grohe, who stepped down earlier this year.

Poole has been a voice of reason the last 2-plus years, and has shown a mature and thoughtful approach to the sometimes difficult personnel and personality challenges that come with doing city business.

It's likely there could be news soon about the direction the city will take to find a new city manager.

When they voted to terminate Ard, commissioners also voted to keep the search for a new city manager under commission's control, and not contract out for a consulting firm for assistance this time around.

Ard started working for the city at the start of 2012, after a contracting firm brought three candidates to the city for commissioners to meet. All three also attended a “meet and greet” in the State Room at the State Theatre.

The contract with Novak Consulting wasn't a failure despite the decision to let Ard go and pursue a different path. Part of the deal with Novak was a pretty exhaustive job description developed by the company for the city manager's job.

The description includes the 12 goals that were established when Ard started. Sticking with those goals and that description will help keep the new search for candidates and the interview process focussed. Keeping the focus will be key to any chance at success this time around.

The city doesn't have the best track record when it come to hiring managers, and that's been part of the problem holding it back from more aggressive and progressive efforts at everything from development to cooperation with the county and other area governments.

The current commission already has brought more debate to the table and more dialogue than there's been in a long, long time. The proposed changes in size and term limits will continue that trend.

Hiring a new manager is the next big challenge.

Commissioners would do well to nail down a better practice and procedure during this process to apply to important hiring decisions that inevitably will occur in the future. They'd also likely be wise to hang onto the job description and the job goals for the city manager's position, and build on the lessons from the Novak contract.  

Comments

Darkhorse

Why isn't the legislation on the agenda as instructed to the attorney to have it ready by the next meeting?