Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

February 7: The City of Richardson issues this press release: "City Manager Bill Keffler announced today he is retiring from the City of Richardson after a 35-year career with the City, 17 as City Manager. His last day will be May 31, 2012. The City Council will consider options for a successor at a future date."

February 13: Mayor Bob Townsend, in public meeting, announces: "We discussed a search firm. We decided that we could not find anybody that's more qualified to run the city of Richardson at this time than Dan Johnson." With that, the Richardson City Council approved the appointment by unanimous vote.

Time flies. After the jump, some thoughts.

The city council took three days to consider and settle on a successor, deciding in executive session on February 10 that they really didn't need to conduct a search because they knew how a search would turn out. I think that's what's called prejudging the issue. Then, three days after that, on February 13, the council took one minute and seventeen seconds from the moment Mayor Townsend publicly announced their selection to when the full council voted unanimously to make their decision official.

Maybe Dan Johnson is, indeed, the most qualified candidate. I won't argue he isn't. I also won't argue that the council's rush to judgment was necessarily wrong, especially if the result, Dan Johnson, is universally considered to be an excellent choice. No, what's got me scratching my head over the whole process is why state legislators, in their wisdom, think the process used here is fine, but in similar hiring situations, insist on a more deliberate process.

Richardson's council-manager form of government parallels the structure of Texas school districts, where an elected board of trustees hires a superintendent to be the day-to-day administrator of the school district. When the position of superintendent is open, state law requires school boards to publicly name one or more finalists, then wait at least 21 days for public input before officially hiring the new superintendent. Even if there's a deputy superintendent waiting in the wings, someone the school board cannot imagine finding anyone else more qualified, state law still requires the school board to wait those 21 days after naming their man or woman. Most people consider the wait only a formality, but it's still considered prudent, just in case. Who knows what skeletons might arise once a finalist is publicly named?

So, the question that's got me scratching my head is, why does the state think the task of hiring a city manager doesn't need any time for public review and input? Why does state law consider it prudent to wait 21 days before making the hire of a school superintendent official, but one minute and seventeen seconds is long enough to wait before making the hire of a city manager official? What am I missing?


dc-tm said...

Should we be prudent and deliberate? Or should we do it the Richardson way? The Richardson way wins out over prudence and deliberation.

Most likely the problem was they could not hire an outsider for city manager at the going rate because the ACMs and deputy in Richardson are too highly paid. It is that simple.

Nathan Morgan said...

From another perspective, at the rate Richardson was paying and the budget set-aside for a city manager, we could afford the best there is out there. They'd be lined up for miles to get that sweetheart deal.

But, then, hiring an outsider would surely cause a great deal of consternation and would likely disrupt the Keffler way of doing business. Johnson will surely be the best one to assure its perpetuation. At least, for the time being.

Yep, this way they don't have to endure the unearthing of all the bones.