High Time for a Town Manager

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Recent events ranging from, among others, the problems with the Town Hall renovations, the development of Ffyler Place, the police department’s morale, and the stalled Bridge Street school/community center bring to a head the realization that complex problems face even a small town such as Suffield and that expertise in the area of public administration is needed. Local government needs more than well intentioned people (which Suffield has always had at the helm.)

Running even a small town requires a person be knowledgeable in urban management, budget /finance, public policy development, intergovernmental issues, human resource management, including union negotiating, and project management. Just learning the elements of the town charter and the state statutes that apply to the town takes a long while. The learning curve for someone who does not have a public administration background is long. And, just as one might be making progress divining the issues, the two year term comes to an end.

At present there are no credentials required for this $100,000 job other than Suffield residency and being elected. I doubt any well-run business would hire someone for such an important and well paid position without that person having some expertise in the area. People in the First Selectman position have tried their best, but not having been trained for the job, they cannot be totally effective.

The fact of a two year term also dictates against effective long term planning, continuity, stability and follow through. Both the library and Bridge St. School issues are examples of how things get whipsawed due to our penny wise pound foolish approach. Sometimes decisions are made at the altar of no immediate tax increase when to pay to do things correctly works out better financially in the long run.

As citizens we have to step back and look at what is best for our town because obviously the selectman form of government is not working. When we see years of projects that need to be addressed not being handled and those projects only escalating in price over the years, and a building deteriorating because of neglect, we need to take control of our government and look at the possibility of a town manager who is trained to run a town.

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