Should there be two general managers or three at city hall and how does the city manager beef up his bench strength?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 24, 2012  You got the job.  The hiring committee was impressed with some of the ideas you put forward and you’ve been on the job long enough to have a sense of how the place works and what the bench strength is like – now you need to implement the plan you’ve been thinking your way through.  Some toes are going to be stepped on – there will be some egos to be massaged but you have a clear view of what you want to do and you are pretty sure you know how to achieve your objectives.

You have convinced city council how the city should be run in terms of accountability and they bought into your performance based budgeting.  Now to organize your team.

We brought in a new city manager because we wanted a change in the way the city was run. That city manager is about to tell the Council he reports to how he feels staff at the very senior level should be reorganized. Will council listen to Jeff Fielding?

The big questions you face are:

Should the city have two General Managers or three?

Are the ones you have doing the job as well as they should?

Hmmm … didn’t think so.

Do you want or need a Chief Financial Officer?

And how good is the bench strength the level immediately beneath the General Manager level?

Not good enough – is it?

Good thing you managed to keep the full $800,000 originally budgeted for staff training – you’re going to need every nickel of it to get your senior team to take a different approach to municipal administration and the delivery of services to their “customers”.  And by the way – how is getting all those people working for the city  to see taxpayers as customers and not tax bill hostages?

City manager Jeff Fielding is about to significantly reorganize the senior levels at city hall. Will Council let him do it?

And that is just about what city manager Jeff Fielding thinks about as he drives back to Burlington from London, where his wife and some of his family still live.  He will take a document to his city council soon and put forward his recommendations on how he thinks the city’s administration should be re-organized.

Will city council buy into his  recommendation as whole heartedly as they did to his performance based budgeting approach?  Or will they decide to look for cost savings?  Drop one general manager and you’re looking at savings of real close to a quarter of a million dollars.

Fielding has done his thinking, he knows what the core issues are – now he has to decide how he wants to put this to his council and convince them to buy into the way he wants to structure his team.

Will he choose to treat city council as a Board of Directors and ask them to think longer term and to think strategically and not as a council that has one ear listening to his ideas and the other listening to voters who frequently complain about the amount senior city staff are paid.  Lop off one of those city managers and save a cool quarter of a million each year.  That’s attractive to municipal politicians who have to talk to voters every day of  the week and explain what’s going on at city hall.

Will his “board of directors”  get caught up in that penny wise pound foolish mentality?  Or are they going to trust him enough to follow his leadership?

This city council has talked about taking risks and moving beyond the old traditional approach. Can they walk this talk?

We will continue to follow these developments

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