City Manager Idea
Going Out Of Favor
After Three Failures, Disillusionment
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – After Common Council’s lively discussion last night over whether to replace a city manager with a city administrator, Mayor Gary Herzig today summoned council to a special meeting next Monday, Oct. 12, to decide the question and move on.
At last night’s meeting, veteran Council member John Rafter has dim predictions for the current system: “I don’t think we’ve been successful with city managers; I ask whether we can be successful where two or three councils before us have not been?” he asked.
“The adage of fool me once, fool me twice: Do you really think we’re going to get somebody better?” he said.
Herzig had raised the question: Should Council appointed an interim city manager? The answer appeared to be, no.
In the one system, all City Hall department heads report to the city manager, who is in charge, develops programs and directs staff. In contrast, a city administrator would be charged with implementing the mayor and Common Council’s decisions and strategies.
Deputy Mayor David Rissberger, who chaired the Charter Revision Commission a decade ago, pointed out it’s been eight months since the last city manager – George Korthauer – resigned, and things have been going fine.
“I guess I’ve said it: I’m opposed to an interim,” he said.
Pointing out that two city managers have been fired, and the third left behind a feeling of dissatisfaction, Rafter said, “I’m not going to put my faith in a Messianic figure who’s not going to do better than the other ones have.”
While I would certainly not argue with those who have come to the conclusion that the City Manager experiment has failed, it is not fair to say that two City Managers have been fired. Mike Long and George Korthauer both retired, the latter close to the end of his contract and the former rather before that. But Council only fired one City Manager.
However, given the consensus on this subject, Council and the Mayor need to take the next logical step, which is to appoint a Charter Revision Commission to give the Mayor the type of executive authority needed to run the City and to eliminate the City Manager position. Creating an administrator position and leaving the Charter-mandated City Manager position vacant is not the way forward.