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Push professionalism in search for manager
By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published August 14, 2007
The to-do list just got a little longer in the city of Port Richey. Balance the budget. Dredge the canals. Finish the parks. Achieve water independence. Tackle redevelopment. Improve the waterfront. Find grant money to pay for a lot of this stuff. Appease the shrink-the-government crowd. And, oh yes, find someone to lead the city through all these chores.
Jerry Calhoun's decision last week that public service in Iraq was safer than the city manager's position in Port Richey leaves the coastal community of 3,000 people again searching for a person to run the day-to-day operations of the municipal government.
Calhoun provided three years of competent leadership after the turmoil that surrounded the eight-year tenure of Vince Lupo. Calhoun even quit after a nasty campaign in 2006 turned out two incumbents and left the council with a new majority, but he rescinded his resignation after the new regime asked him to stay.
In response, he began consolidating services, notably merging the police and fire management into a public safety department, to achieve a council goal of reduced spending.
We believe Calhoun is sincere in his desire to serve in the Middle East, advising Iraqis on running their local governments.
But his timing also is opportune. The council recently set a reduced property tax rate with no input from Calhoun and then didn't have the courtesy afterward to inform him of its actions. It is indicative of Calhoun's diminishing influence. There is little need to stick around offering recommendations to your bosses if nobody wants to hear them.
Calhoun does leave with an admirable notation on his resume. He is the first Port Richey city manager to leave on his own accord since voters approved the strong city manager form of government 13 years ago. His survival skills should serve him well in his next assignment.
The council must now begin the task of finding a replacement. The spring 2007 vote affirming the electorate's desire to retain the city as a municipality should help ease job security concerns of potential candidates.
To attract and retain qualified public administrators, council members must assure applicants they will seek out and respect governing recommendations from the city manager. The professionalism at City Hall grew under Calhoun's leadership. It would be a mistake for the council to allow it to slip backward.