Newburyport, Discussion About a City Manger

I couldn’t be more delighted that there is already a dialogue going on about the subject of a City Manager for Newburyport, MA.

Here is a question from an astute reader of the Newburyport Political Blog. (It is a question that I have as well):

“I guess I am picturing a situation where the city starts bringing in people from all over the state/country to interview for the job, much like the planning director, and I don’t know if that is a good thing. I think having local people in positions like this is very important, especially in a place like Newburyport. If there is no one in town that has the professional qualifications (how many people in Newburyport are or have been a city manager?), then are we forced to look outside of the city for a candidate? At least a requirement of being a mayor is that you live in town, and the only real chance you have to win is if you are someone that has been around town for a while. As much as I like the idea of having a non-political person running the day to day stuff, I just don’t like the idea of not having locals in charge of their own city…”

And these are some thoughts by another astute reader of the Newburyport Political Blog that I found very interesting.

“By design, a city manager is an apolitical position. It is not necessary for the manager to be a resident or to have insight into what is going on. That is the job of the City Council, who would direct the manager to implement the policies that the Council comes up with.

The Newburyport City Council is in the position to know wishes and concerns of their constituents, and the policies and directions that would come out of the City Council would be the result of debate and compromise.

Under the Mayor/Council system, policies and initiatives usually come out of the Mayor’s office. In other words, one person sets the agenda.

Under the Council/Manager system, 7,9, or 11 people would set the agenda, and then the Manager would implement that agenda. Should the Manager prove to be incompetent or working counter to the agenda set forth by the City Council, he/she would be fired. The locals would still be in charge of the City.

It is my opinion that we would want to look outside of Newburyport for a Manager. The goal would be to hire the most qualified, experienced person for the money that we could afford. If we did hire someone from outside the community, they would not have the loyalties, family ties or outstanding obligations of someone who has been in town for a long time. (Editor’s note: as I understand it, this is what would make it possible for the position to be non-political.)

Another point that is important to remember is that the role of Mayor would not go away. The Mayor would become more of a ceremonial role, and would occupy the position now held by the City Council President. The Mayor would be the “spokesperson” and “ambassador” for the City. And there are two ways in which the Mayor could be chosen — election by the Council, or the person who gets the most popular votes.”

Many thanks to both astute readers of the Newburyport Political Blog.

Mary Eaton