Adventures in City Manager Land

Image“Adventures in City Attorney Land” took us on wild ride that went up and down, then round and round through a revolving door, as City Attorneys came and went. At the end of the adventure, we wound up where we began, with Tony Powell once again representing the city, just as he had done so well during the previous two years.

“Adventures in City Manager Land” will take us on a much tamer (almost boring) ride because the processes through which a City Manager is hired and fired differ dramatically from those that can unexpectedly launch City Attorneys through a revolving door. The City Attorney is unilaterally appointed and “unappointed” by the mayor; the City Manager is nominated by the mayor, but must be approved by a majority of council. More importantly, (given recent history) the City Manager can only be fired by a majority vote of the Council.

Following the resignation of the previous City Manager, the Snellville City Council hired a search firm to find the most highly qualified candidates for the job. That search culminated in the hiring of Butch Sanders. Mr. Sanders has impressive credentials, over 25 years of experience and the positive attitude that is essential for getting things done sooner rather than later. In the short time that he has been on the job, he has demonstrated the leadership skills and vision that are essential to serving the best interests of the citizens of Snellville. Further, he has already made significant improvements in the efficiency of city operations, and in the morale of the staff.

In the manager-council form of government that is favored by many cities (including Snellville) the City Manager is the chief administrative officer. Responsibilities include supervising department heads, preparing the budget, coordinating departments and interacting with contractors and suppliers who do business with the city. A significant advantage of this form of government is that it tends to minimize the effects of politics on city operations. The reality of the situation is that with six “bosses” (a mayor and five Council members) a City Manager will feel political heat on occasion and part of his job is to handle that heat, insulate the staff from it, and take the course of action that provide maximum benefits for city residents.

So whether the political winds are blowing hot or cold, or are completely calm, the City Manager has to meet the challenge of keeping city operations on a steady course. From what I’ve seen, that’s exactly what Mr. Sanders is doing, and that’s great news for Snellville.


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