Mayor's Update #4: Mayor to Hire City Administrator
By Mayor Bruce Peele
October 1, 2015
This is the fourth in a series of updates on the current state of the Blanco City Government. This week, I would like to discuss the City’s need to employ a part-time City Administrator.
Fifteen years ago, in August 2000, the Blanco City Council approved the hiring of a City Administrator. Subsequent City budgets included funds to hire an Administrator. Unfortunately, no action was ever taken.
Having been in office for four months, working as a full time Mayor, I definitely see the need for a professional City Administrator to manage the operations of the City. An Administrator would, of course, work under the general direction of the Mayor and Council.
A City Administrator would generally manage and oversee all of the City’s departments and functions and coordinate special projects. Additionally, the Administrator would be responsible for the implementation of all policies set by the Council and would ensure continuity from Council to Council, year to year.
Historically, the Blanco Mayor’s job has been a part-time position that pays a small salary (I am not asking for a raise). One former Council member told me that, prior to my taking the job; he rarely saw former Mayors at City Hall more than 5 hours a week. Running the City of Blanco efficiently is a complicated matter and one with which future, truly part-time mayors will undoubtedly struggle without professional help.
In many ways, the Mayor of Blanco is like the Chief Executive Officer of a small non-profit corporation. He or she makes major decisions and gives guidance to the City Staff. The Mayor, in turn, is subject to the supervision of the City Council and citizens.
So, exactly what does a mayor do that he needs professional help (other than psychological counseling)? While recently attending a course on the Public Funds Investment Act, I jotted down some of the duties I regularly perform that a part-time Mayor simply would not have time to do. The list was extensive.
Blanco has an annual income of about $2.3 million dollars. Right after being elected, the Mayor has to begin learning about the City’s finances, how to create a budget, and recommend how much the tax rate should be. A good City Administrator should have ongoing knowledge of the City’s finances and could guide a part-time Mayor through the budget process.
A newly elected Mayor knows little about the City’s day-to-day operations. A new Mayor has to hit the ground running; there are City personnel to get to know as well as an assortment of other persons and entities that regularly interact with City who want and need attention, e.g. the Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning & Zoning Commission, the Courthouse, the Chamber of Commerce, Keep Blanco Beautiful, etc. A good City Administrator should have knowledge of the City staff and people that the City deals with regularly to include the many volunteers that make the City hum. An Administrator can help guide the Mayor to maximize his or her time to best effect.
Blanco, like every city, has infrastructure issues involving roads, water, waste-water, and where to allocate limited resources. The City and Mayor have ongoing relationships with Blanco County, the State of Texas, TCEQ, EMS service, Volunteer Fire Department, and numerous other entities, all of which want a little bit of the Mayor’s time. A good City Administrator should have ongoing knowledge of the different entities and should be able to guide the part-time Mayor in making sound decisions.
In addition to the foregoing, a Mayor has to deal with many other issues such as researching annexation; drafting City ordinances; chairing the City Council; researching land control issues; resolving disputes; ensuring code enforcement; purchasing and selling City assets; employing financial advisors; City attorneys and bond counsel; considering sources of revenue (taxes), municipal court operations, science and technology funds, community aid, etc., etc.
What will happen if the City fails to hire a City Administrator and a part-time Mayor is elected? Past history demonstrates that little will be accomplished for the City and its citizens. Instead, the City staff will do the best they can with the resources that they have available to deal with the City’s issues.
The City Council has again included the position City Administrator in the recently approved City Budget. At some point, the citizens of Blanco will elect a new, part-time Mayor. To help him or her best serve the City and its citizens, I plan to press forward to hire a competent and knowledgeable part-time City Administrator to ensure that Blanco continues to move forward smartly and efficiently.