Our Greater Calling

It’s election time for many of us in our Texas towns and cities. This puts many of us in the city management profession in a difficult position as our neighbors, friends, and sometimes even elected officials ask our opinions on upcoming elections and their impact in the community.  They assume we have an understanding of the local political climate and are looking for the best guesses, gossip, or suggestions we may have for how they should cast their vote.

As much as we may want to give an opinion or advice, we have to remember our greater calling to the profession. City management positions were created from a desire by our municipal forefathers to separate the political from the elected.  People filling the roles in a city’s administration were intended to provide the services for the common constituency in a professional, technical capacity in the direction set by those elected officials. We take advantage of our position and the goodwill that the community entrusts with us when we become advocates for the reelection (or in some cases, defeat) of those that serve on our city councils and other elected bodies that impact our organizations.

It is by this measure that the Texas City Management Association adopted Tenet 7 as part of the Code of Ethics.  It reads; “Refrain from all political activities which undermine public confidence in professional administrators. Refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body.”

Those serving in the profession know that the political environment influences many of the decisions that are made. Personalities of council members influence the atmosphere of city halls in both positive and negative ways, and the job of city management is to temper that influence on operations and services. As a personal aside, I’ve considered many of the council members that I’ve known through the years as friends and mentors. It’s always a sad moment to see them step away from the dais and have someone who is new and unknown step in to replace them; however this is the profession that we have dedicated ourselves to uphold.

I have found it crucial to make sure each council member is treated with the same respect and work to build that relationship with them as soon as they are elected. It’s a weird balance that we make as we share in the regret that we’re losing one elected official and confidante as the new one comes aboard. We are called to remember that we are not to lose focus that we serve the greater council and ensure that each member of the council receives equal treatment, respect, and knowledge so they can meet the expectations of the citizens they serve.

(Article submitted by Ed Broussard, City Manager, Tyler. If you have interesting news or helpful topics to share, please submit them to Kim Pendergraft at [email protected]. Please keep the information to fewer than 300 words.)