Last November the voters in the city elected a council where a majority of those elected and re-elected provided this council with a different philosophical outlook than the previous council.
The previous city council recruited a new city manager in Beth James who was given an initial mandate to simplify the governance process and weed out waste. She took her considerable abilities and proceeded to do just that. Unfortunately when the heat came on, a majority of that council ducked and ran away from the considerable opposition from members of the community both as individuals and pressure groups. Without support of council successful completion of her assigned tasks became impossible.
The concept of a comprehensive review or audit of city operations by a disinterested third party initiated by the previous council early in its mandate seemed like a good idea at the outset. Implementation of its recommendations was renounced by one councillor after another. Money was spent which yielded little return and created frustration and anguish for many in the city.
What was missed was the political instinct many councillors had to get re-elected. As is the way in politics, decisions made by elected representatives, must have the approval of the majority of voters they will face in the next election or be defeated at the polls.
Most of the time the right decisions are made and at times some silly or disastrous decision are made. The sometimes ugly truth is no political body, political party or elected representative can survive the will or the whim of the people. That is democracy, imperfect, but way ahead of any other method of governing our communal affairs.
Mayor Hall is a consensus builder. He has the patience to listen endlessly and not infrequently allow people to talk until they come around to a different point of view than they began with. He has the support of his fellow councillors in this approach. It is a soft, listening kind of leadership. Mayor Hall and his council will face some unpopular decisions and are capable of making those decisions. The major problem is the time it may take and, at times, lack real direction.
A very clear indicator of a council that intends to operate on a different basis than the previous council is the very rapid departure of former city manager Beth James and her replacement with Kathleen Soltis. The appointment of Kathleen Soltis to the position is a strong indicator of the type of administration this council wants. It could well be one of the best decisions the current council makes.
Soltis was born and raised in this community. That alone gives her a depth of understanding of the feelings of the community that no newcomer can have. She is a long time public servant in city administration and understands the operation of the city and the people in the community. She has proven intelligence and integrity. That combined with her deep roots in the community could bode very well for the future of our city.
Over the next almost four years, we, the electorate, will know if we made the right decision when we cast our ballots. We will also know if good decisions are being made in the management of the city. All we can do at this point is pay attention and wait for our next turn at the ballot box.