Crestview uses an antiquated charter, as much has changed in municipal administration in the past 90 years.
Under a proposed charter, the council would appoint a city administrator in a salaried full-time position. Second, council would appoint a city clerk, now an elected position.
Concerns include whether this is a power grab by the council, whether the mayor’s role would become ceremonial, and the notion that hiring a city administrator would be expensive.
Currently, the City Council can appoint department heads. Under the proposed charter, council could appoint department heads only with the city administrator’s recommendation.
Currently, the council president serves as mayor, should the occasion arise, for an unspecified time. Under the proposed city charter, the council must appoint a mayor within 30 days, with the council president serving in the interim. Also, the current charter states that council members will fill a vacant council position by appointment. The proposed charter says it must be done within 30 days.
So (if the measure’s approved), the mayor is no longer over public safety?
Partially, this has always been true. The mayor’s position was never intended to be full time, although the last few retired mayors have treated it as a full-time job. Should the next mayor be retired, I have no reason to think that would change, regardless of which charter is used.
Currently, the mayor oversees the public safety departments of fire and police. Few people could come to this office equipped to be the city’s Public Safety director. Under the proposed charter, those two departments would go under the city administrator’s purview. However, the mayor would no longer simply attend council meetings, providing input during a mayoral report. Under the proposed charter, the mayor would chair the meetings. The chair presides over, sets the tone and runs meetings.
But wouldn’t the city administrator position be expensive?
The position would be as costly as the city’s more senior department heads. $200,000 sounds like a high estimate, and there are variables of experience and education. Will they need an office, car, and assistant? Yes. It’s not like we’re looking to break ground on a new building. An executive assistant already is in place and a car was purchased for the Administrative Office some time ago.
Crestview’s form of government is a hodgepodge of responsibilities with mayor (acting as public safety administrator), city council (legislatively and, at times, quasi-judicial), city clerk (working with water/sewer and finance), and department heads. Often, there is no accountability, no command and control, and no place “where the buck stops here.” This is the core reason we need a unification of organization with a city administrator.
An administrator would save the city enough money that would far exceed his or her wage. If not, we should find out why and make adjustments. Do you really think big box retail stores pay their store managers $70,000 to $100,000 at a loss?
There is no one on first base and — despite some awesome people giving 100 percent of their efforts to serve the city well — there are many parts of the city run with atrocious inefficiency.
Thomas Gordon is a Crestview City Council member.