You should have your ballots for the Nov. 2 special election to amend our city charter. At first glance, the question sounds like a snooze: Should we change the title of our chief administrator and put the details of that position in the charter?
This question is actually important to the health of your city government – and about much more than a new job title and a bureaucratic switcheroo. Me and the rest of the city council team voted to put this question to you because – if a majority of you approve – our city government will be stronger. That’s because it will be less prone to city council meddling and help attract the best candidates for Fairview’s top job.
The city administrator is Fairview’s CEO. Right now, that’s Nolan Young, who oversees the 27-person city staff, manages our $30 million budget, develops and executes city policy and generally ensures Fairview runs effectively and efficiently, legally and ethically. Right now, the city administrator’s job description is laid down in our municipal code – which can be changed by us councilors without voter approval. That means that, without your permission, we could monkey with the city administrator’s tasks and how they’re hired and fired – injecting politics and personal agendas into a critical public service position.
Meanwhile, changing the position title from “administrator” to “manager” is a signal that the job responsibilities sit in the city’s charter, not in its municipal code. So smart job candidates will know that their position would be better insulated from the political whims of the council -and a lot more stable.
We’re putting the question to you now because we’re going to be looking for a new city manager soon. Nolan Young retires in January 2022, after six years of city service and 38 years leading cities in the Pacific Northwest. We’ve just launched a search for his replacement. (See the press release I wrote on the search on the city’s website and check out the recruitment profile we created for the new position.
No city council task is more vital than selecting a city manager. And we want to attract the very best people we can. That means offering a position that has built-in firewalls between the CEO and the city council. We shouldn’t be able to rewrite the description for the top city job or change the rules about how that person is appointed or removed. That power should sit with voters. So it is power I’d happily give up – and the rest of the council agrees. So, in fact, does the League of Oregon Cities, whose model charter our proposal is based on.
Please vote in next week’s special election. And vote “yes.” We’ll all be better for it.