A quick conclusion after three whirlwind days of service on a citizen committee selected to help interview finalists for Frankfort city manager: City Hall will be in capable hands regardless of whom the mayor and commissioners select.
Each of the six finalists brings talents and strengths that would serve the city well at a pivotal time.
Given the strong field, the city commission’s opportunity is to get behind a consensus candidate who will go into the assignment with strong backing from the elected officials at whose pleasure he or she serves.
A unanimous vote, while optimal, might be too high a bar given the recent history of acrimony surrounding the city manager position, but 4-1 support should be the minimally acceptable standard before the commission offers the position. A 3-2 vote, while legally binding and certainly valid under the rules of parliamentary procedure, would be a disservice to commission relations, the candidate, city staff and indeed the community at large.
While a 4-1 or 5-0 vote isn’t guaranteed to stop the revolving door on the city manager’s office over the past decade, it gives the next city manager at least a fighting chance of longevity and success in a town that sorely needs stability in governance as it moves forward in a post-COVID world.
I’m reminded of a lifelong policy of my dad, a preacher in a Christian denomination that lets its congregations hire and fire their own pastors. He would accept a congregation’s “call” only if the deacon board was unanimously behind him.
The policy served him well in six decades of pastoral ministry, even though it meant passing on an opportunity or two to go to a bigger church and make more money to support his family. Churches, sadly, can be torn apart by political conflict as quickly as a board of elected officials. Dad knew he might not always have the deacons’ unanimous support, but he was insistent on starting with it.
Like my dad, a wise city manager finalist would turn down a position that two of the five bosses didn’t want him or her to have. But it shouldn’t come to that. In a deep and talented field like this one, the commission surely can find a candidate on whom at least four of its members can agree.
Steve Stewart is publisher of The State Journal. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.