Thursday, July 16, 2009

A New Town Manager for Brunswick

The search for a new Town Manager for Brunswick has been going on for some time now, aided by, of course, consultants. Consultants are great because they provide “air cover” no matter what the circumstances may be. If the council wanted someone in particular, but didn’t have the stones to just come out and say it, they can always have the consultant construct an elaborate rationale for the choice. And if the choice made turns out to be a big mistake downstream, it has to be the consultants’ fault.

I don’t know how much we’re investing in this process, and I’m not sure I want to know. As I’ve written before, if I was a betting man, I’d say the outcome will be that Acting Town Manager Gary Brown will be the choice, and there’ll be glowing statements about how “here he was, right here, already working for us, so he can hit the ground running.” This isn’t much of a leap for me to make, since at least one town web page already shows him as the Town Manager.

The process is drawing to a close, and anticipation is mounting. You can feel it in the air around town. (Or is it just the crummy weather?) So in keeping with my prediction above, I’m putting down a bet for a steak and a couple of beers at Frosty’s that Brown will be the winner. And that just for grins, the salary package will exceed that of the prior Town Manager.

This wasn’t the real reason for this post, however. While it is of no real purpose at this point, I simply wish to make some observations about the qualifications and job description for a Town Manager. These were submitted to the Town Council some time ago, and no doubt they’ve made the same strong impression as my other submissions and statements over the years.

I’m confident that the Town, with the able assistance of the consultants, are looking for someone who would make a fine diplomat or ambassador. Rich in “people skills” and “consensus building” and ability to work with “diverse town interests.” There is ample reason to prize such qualifications.

I tend to look at things more from the performance and responsibilities point of view, especially in view of the challenges Brunswick faces. So herewith are my notes on the subject, which were disclosed as well in a Times Record submission.

• Read Town Charter to delineate Town Manager duties.

• What do we expect from a Town Manager?
o Just an administrator? If so, the job isn’t worth the compensation package we provide.
o Prior manager was cordial and helpful, but also delegated all substantial tasks.

• Ask candidates what we should expect from them.
o Why should we hire you?
o What is the proper role of municipal government, and what isn’t?
o How do you manage and contain costs on capital projects from inception to completion and through operation?
o What objectives would you have for the town? For yourself? For your direct reports?
o How should we measure your performance?
o What measurable performance history can you provide us?
o Any candidates who stumble on such questions are not prepared to lead and do not have a sense of what their purpose is.

• Some thoughts on tasking:
o Establish and maintain 5 year revenue and spending forecast; update and present twice yearly; include debt profiles and projections
o Establish 5 year population/demographic forecast; update and present twice yearly
o Establish formal objectives program for Town Manager and all Department Heads; tie to annual performance/merit reviews
o Establish formal, rigorous capital project process
 CAIV, cost control mechanisms, etc
o Establish formal, rigorous capital asset maintenance process
 Avoid typical deferred maintenance catastrophes
o Establish budget priority categories for ranking needs vs. wants
o Conduct full budget scrub/zero basing immediately, and repeat at least every 3 years

No comments:

Post a Comment