Election season is a great time of year to ‘check in’ with how our town is being run. What is working? What could be better? Are we growing in a positive way? Are we being run effectively? Are the ideals of being collaborative, transparent and ethical present in our leadership?
When I personally ‘check in’ on how things are going in our town, I am further resolved in my opinion that our town would benefit from a town manager. A town manager would bring consistency, efficiency, professionalism and have the qualifications to run a municipality. Currently the only requirement to run our town is to live here, leaving the residents vulnerable to a First Selectman who faces a learning curve to understand the job, who pushes their own agenda and who can politicize the position.
In contrast, a town manager would work collaboratively with our boards and commissions. We elect individuals to serve our town because we trust their expertise and commitment to town, but also because it is a check and balance for our government. A town manager would work with our boards and commissions, allowing their voice to be heard.
As evidenced in the current and previous town election cycles, only one candidate ran for First Selectman, which ultimately extinguishes the democratic process of choice. Qualified residents aren’t interested in leaving a stable job to run for what equates to a two-year contract position.
Our town employees work hard for our town and with each new First Selectman they are vulnerable to potential personality differences and a lack of understanding of their responsibilities. A town manager would provide continuity, help to build relationships and establish a positive work environment that would allow our employees to achieve even greater success which would in turn propel our town forward.
A town manager is our greatest opportunity for a strong leader who can help build and move our town forward. We would still maintain our town meeting form of government, meaning residents have the voice. A town manager would be accountable to the Board of Selectman, similar to how the Superintendent is accountable to the Board of Education. Currently, the only person the First Selectman is accountable to is residents and since it is nearly impossible for every one of us to know how things are operating, it leaves no accountability.
When you do your personal ‘check-in’, think about what you would like to see? I challenge you to hold your leaders accountable and voice your opinions. If you support my notion of a town manager – express it. Remember, our town meeting form of government means YOU, the resident, makes the decisions, not just one leader or board.