Kudos to the Marathon City Council for its recent decision to elevate George Garrett to City Manager. George has served the City well for many years now as planning director and his experience will be vital as we move forward in these uncertain times. I am also hopeful that when it comes to hiring future City Managers we are now past the great experiment of “seeing what else is out there” and have learned that it is wise to give higher weight to local knowledge rather than cast out to the world for someone with a few more certifications or designations after their name. I have heard many, many times that we are a unique community. It would follow that we require someone with experience in that uniqueness to serve us rather than a naive newcomer with a smile and a story.
Last week a good and respected friend of mine, Frank Greenman, wrote a letter to this editor criticizing the council for being lazy in its process of choosing a new manager. Though I can agree with Frank to an extent on the council being lazy part, I prefer to believe that the majority of council rather had a bit of an epiphany when they chose to move forward with George Garrett. I believe they recognized the value of having someone locally competent and with deep community roots at the helm. And I agree with them wholeheartedly.
As I think back over the history of the City of Marathon I recall that the best years Marathon (as a City) had were when native son, Mike Puto, was City Manager. Stuff got done … the ability to make a quick call and get a bit of help for the good of the town is invaluable. Mike was the best at that. But with precious few alphabet characters after his name, the council at that time was looking for a more formal approach. In my opinion, that was a poor plan. Instead they established a precedent that has since had us paying for searches, poring over resumes from candidates who in most cases don’t even know where Marathon is, and wasting valuable time and money which could be going to solving the myriad of problems, as so eloquently penned by Mr. Greenman, facing our City. To what end? Let me be blunt. It’s not rocket science to manage a city of 7,000 odd citizens. It doesn’t take an advanced degree, or an online certification, or a few semesters of management classes, or a few certification letters after your name. What it does take is an understanding of the people and businesses in that community. It takes a working knowledge of the history of the community. It takes a commitment to the goals the community members establish as important to it. And finally, it takes the perseverance to take that community toward those goals. George Garrett has these qualities and I believe they are more valuable than any certification, degree or class.
The problems Mr. Greenman writes about all stem from a council not knowing, or not being clear about what it wants, not a deficiency in management. The council’s role is as a sounding board for the citizens. They take the wishes of the citizenry, fashion direction and policy, and task a manager to see those through. The role of the City Manager is to take the directions of the council, as a body, and implement them. Managers are implementers, not policy makers, and to that end they can only be successful if given proper direction. I just don’t see how you make the jump from a lazy council, to not hiring someone who has been, and I believe will continue to be, a huge asset to our town.
As an aside, to the council members who voted against Mr. Garrett; rather than complain about process, I challenge you to clearly and transparently task him with your wishes. In the sunshine, of course.