Memo to council: let the city manager … manage!

Jared Miller is walking into either the job of his dreams or … of his worst nightmare.

Amarillo’s newly named city manager is inheriting a big job. I wish him all the very best as he takes administrative command of a $300 million annual budget and a payroll of more than 2,000 public servants.

They all work for us — you and me. So, in fact, do the five individuals who hired Miller to become the next city manager.

But here’s the deal: The City Council has been thought by some around the city to be a meddlesome bunch at times.

I spoke the other day to a former city staffer who left recently to take another job. The staffer and I were talking about the five finalists who were competing for the manager’s job. I got the question: “What do you think of them?” I responded I thought they all were fine candidates and that any one of them would do a good job as city manager.

“If they’ll let him manage,” came the response from my friend.

I have no personal knowledge of this, but I have heard the whispers, gripes and some chatter around Amarillo about alleged meddling by council members in staffers’ activities. If it’s true, it cannot continue.

Amarillo’s strong-manager form of government entrusts the city manager with tremendous administrative authority. He hires all the department heads: police and fire chiefs, assistant city¬†managers, city attorneys and so on. His job is to oversee every single aspect of¬†the city’s governing mechanism.

The manager also is obligated to follow policy set by the City Council.¬†Setting policy is where council members’ involvement ends, except to field concerns¬†from constituents they encounter at the grocery store, PTA meetings,¬†in houses of worship and perhaps across the back fence.

Then the proper reaction to those concerns would be to refer the complainer to the appropriate department head or perhaps to the city manager.

The new city manager is stepping into a post that has been the subject of considerable controversy since the May 2015 municipal election that brought us three new council members.

City Manager Jarrett Atkinson quit more than a year ago. The council hired an interim manager, Terry Childers, who promptly got entangled in a public relations nightmare of his own involving the emergency communications center; then he quit in late 2016 after calling a constituent a profane name.

City Hall hasn’t exactly been a peaceful and tranquil place.

This is the environment that awaits Jared Miller.

I¬†am confident the¬†new city manager will succeed … if¬†the City Council lets him do his job.

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