Abandon town manager form of government?

The town government’s entire structure could be overturned.

At least some politicians are seriously talking about the possibility of throwing out the town manager form of government that has guided West Hartford for years in favor of a system that relies on a strong mayor.

The motives behind the discussion are murky but at least part of the reason for the proposed shift is the growing difficulty of hiring people with the expertise and experience to run a municipality.

Another reason, I’m told, is that West Hartford’s finances may not be as solid as they were for a long time. The town’s AAA credit rating may not withstand the next recession.

I don’t think the talk is spurred by someone’s political ambitions, but that’s always a possibility. It would mean a lot more to be mayor if the position wielded real power at town hall.

I’m curious what others are hearing. This would be a gigantic change and if it’s something that officials are talking about, the rest of us ought to be included in the conversation.



Filed under News, town manager, West Hartford

20 responses to “Abandon town manager form of government?

  1. Rick Liftig

    Yup – I’ve really been impressed with how it has worked in Hartford! No thanks, I’d rather keep the professional staff.

  2. Mike

    There are more competent professionals out there to manage municipalities than there are competent politicians who can run the entire show on their own. Using Dr. Rick’s example of Hartford, even after giving the keys to Mayor Perez, they kept the former manager, Lee Erdman, on staff as an “advisor”. It would not be a cost saving, in fact would probably lead to larger costs due to having to hire “shadow” professionals to do the real work.

    And to think this isn’t a political power grab is naive. Mayor Slifka has nowhere to go with Senator-for-life Harris blocking his path.

  3. Trade a professional town manager with a volunteer, part time mayor? Feh.

    Who is attacking? Strangely inspired councilor who attacks libarians at the libary. (Note to JV: a certain book at the libary spells it libRary.)

  4. Mike

    Emperor – It would not be a volunteer, part-time mayor. It would be a full-time mayor earning in excess of $100,000 –

  5. Hmm, still think it is a terrible idea to combine the legistlative with adminstrative function of town government. I think there is a compelling reason to have a professional town manager make a career of doing what is best for West Hartford. Finding someone who can be a good Mayor and an effective Town Manager is all but unrealistic. Moreover, to expose that person to frequent re-election could mean too much attrition in the role for the function to be successful. Finally, what do you do when you have a great town leader who is a poor administrator, or a wonderful administrator who is not an effective town leader.

    Keep ’em separate.

    — EoIC

  6. Chalenois

    I could not agree more strongly. Keep them separate.

  7. Cynic

    Am I the only one noticing that while the Council and BOE talk about a tough budget season, the only ideas they come up with are budget busters?

  8. What sort of ideas did they come up with?

  9. Cynic

    The discussions on this blog seem to indicate the direction things are going.

    Slifka looking for a salary as Mayor.
    BOE opting for full construction.

  10. Neither idea came from the council. They are ideas of the citizenry.

    I had heard that the BOE was fully prepared to redistrict until a very large room filled with your townsfolk argued successfully for construction.

    Blaming the board is easy, but inappropriate in this matter.


  11. Cynic

    The BOE appear to be ready ahead with the plans for Construction. You are correct parents raised a fuss. But the Administration made it more than clear that they wanted the construction as well. Perhaps the BOE needs a spine.

    As to the Mayor, he has intimated he would like a strong Mayoral govt for the town with salary on more than one occassion. And that is the topic that started this string.

  12. Mike

    Hey – Whoever is actually running the place – can we do a better job plowing in the Center? Is it me or is the snow wall in the median a new approach this season….

  13. Cynic

    Mike, It’s called “traffic calming”.

  14. Vince

    What Cynic is spouting regarding Slifka is 100% false–you can take that to the bank (no pun intended). WHDAD is trying to stir the pot with this post after a long period of silence. The Mayor is not looking for a salary and noone is angling for the strong mayor model. While the fact that the town council is made up of volunteers was mentioned during the campaign, it was in the context of combatting baseless allegations of misdealings. End of story.

  15. I was scratching my head trying to figure out how cynic knew anything about Slifka based on what he claimed to be in the first post of this thread.

    Thanks for clarifying, Vince.


  16. I never said Scott Slifka was trying to become a full-time, highly paid mayor. I said that some of our town officials are looking to create a strong mayor form of government. That would, I assume, require a long lead time and probably a vote by the public to agree to make the change.
    It’s telling to me that nobody who would know is denying that the talk exists.
    For what it’s worth, I don’t think this has much to do with Slifka’s ambitions. It seems to be spurred by a genuine belief that the town would be better off.

  17. Cynic

    We’ll see what develops.

    In any event nothing will happen without a vote.

  18. David Jones

    I’ve heard Mayor Slifka speak to this issue.

    His contention is that the pool of qualified town manager candidates is small and shrinking, which may necessitate a change at some point in the future.

    It’s highly unlikely that such a change would impact Mayor Slifka since a serious discussion of this issue is not on the immediate horizon.

  19. Ex-WH Res

    “The motives behind the discussion are murky but at least part of the reason for the proposed shift is the growing difficulty of hiring people with the expertise and experience to run a municipality.”

    It’s hard to find someone when you don’t actually look. Sliffy and the rest of the democrat A-HOLES just promoted num-nutz there….if you want to find good talent you have to look.

    Glad to be gone.

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