A sign directs voters at Soldotna City Hall during the special Field House election on March 5, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A sign directs voters at Soldotna City Hall during the special Field House election on March 5, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Letter to the Editor: Manager-run system is a better choice

Hiring a manager would not grow government, which can easily happen with an unqualified mayor.

  • Tuesday, September 17, 2019 11:44pm
  • Opinion

On Oct. 1, voters can change the way their borough operates, and ensure a better future by approving a managerial style of governing.

Passage of Proposition 1 would hand the day-to-day affairs of the borough to a professional manager, who would be responsible for overseeing the delivery of borough services and implementing the policies adopted by the elected assembly and mayor. Because he or she would apply for the job, elected officials could ensure the one they hire was highly skilled, experienced and educated in such things as public administration, business and public policy. Meanwhile, the writing of policy would remain with those elected by voters where it clearly belongs.

For a rapidly maturing borough, moving to a manager plan of government is a logical move. It would take partisan politics out of decision-making, and ensure that the office is filled, not by someone skilled or simply lucky at navigating an election cycle, but with a person hired for his managerial merits.

Under the current system, authority is placed in the hands of elected mayors who may or may not be qualified in critical managerial disciplines or necessarily motivated by the highest interests of the public. Indeed, electing managing mayors opens the office to the influence of special interests and money, and the running of operations subject to personal whims and grudges. Leaving the hiring of staff to an elected mayor also risks losing institutional memory when long-time employees are forced out and replaced by political appointees. The risk that important positions such as directors of finance and public works could be filled by unqualified mayoral appointees is a risk a mature municipality shouldn’t tolerate.

Hiring a manager would not grow the size of government, something that can easily happen with the election of an unqualified mayor, who must then hire costly functionaries, creating a new layer of expenditures atop his or her own sizable compensation package. Under a manager, the mayor’s position would not be a high-salary job, and the manager would have the necessary skills to run the borough without hiring outside expertise.

Our borough budget is roughly $80 million. If the borough was a private corporation and you were a shareholder, would you favor hiring a qualified CEO or having it run by the winner of a popularity contest?

The answer is clear. The Kenai Peninsula Borough should switch to a manager-run government system. Vote “Yes” on Prop. 1!

Hal Spence, Homer

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