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Need for city manager

Several years ago, the Elkins City Council, Administrative Officers and with the assistance of Legal Counsel drafted a Strategic Plan for the city. The plan was designed to be completed over a five-year period with goals, objectives and timelines.

One of the key elements of the plan was to review and amend the city charter, written in 1901; to reflect the operating environment faced by government officials today.

It was readily apparent there were portions of the document in serious need of revision.

City Council engaged an expert in municipal government to assist our efforts. We met on several occasions to discuss areas of concern and draft a document to address specific issues.

The city hosted several public hearings to obtain input from the citizens before finalizing the document.

It is my intent with this article to address the one revision I believe is the most important, this one may be a game changer for the future of our city. The City of Elkins needs a city manager!

The City of Elkins is blessed to have a cadre of administrative officers and employees who do an excellent job. However, given the increasing complexity of city government resulting in a myriad of additional duties; they have no time for doing the other things which make a city operate as efficiently as possible.

The City Manager would be the Executive Administrator for the city, in charge of day-to-day operations and personnel. He/she would be tasked with keeping Council appraised of the finances and needs of the city.

He/She would also be charged with the responsibility to do long range planning, develop plans for capital spending so we can maintain our facilities and equipment, suggest new programs, obtain grants to fund special needs and provide professional assistance to the administrative officers so they have more time to focus on their jobs without having to interrupt their daily activities to react to requests outside their areas of expertise.

City Council’s responsibility is to set the policy guidelines for the city, not to manage it. Neither Council nor the Mayor, unless they have training in public administration, have the education or knowledge to manage a city with a budget of millions of dollars.

Most of the opposition to the City Manager form of government appears to come from those who say it will cost over $100,000 and it is a waste of money. Frankly, I am mystified where the $100,000 number came from since my research indicates we can hire someone for the position for far less. I would expect to hire the person we need for approximately $55,000. Benefits would need to be included; however, it would still be much less than $100,000.

Also, some have expressed concern that citizen input would be minimized. However, it will continue to be the responsibility of council to work with the mayor and manager to ensure the concerns of constituents are addressed.

Let me assure you, the benefits derived from having a City Manager will far outweigh the cost. Conservative budgeting over the past several years has made certain we have the funds required for this position.

Some of the cities in West Virginia having a City Manager form of government include Bridgeport, Charles Town, Fairmont, Lewisburg, Martinsburg, and Morgantown to name a few. These are county seats of the fastest-growing counties in our state. Why do they have a city manager form of government? It is because it works!

You have a decision to make on March 2. Please vote for the Question 1 Manager-Mayor form of government. Do it for your yourself, your children and your grandchildren (and mine).

Charles H. Friddle III is a Second Ward Elkins City Council representative and the chairman of the Finance Committee.

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