Leave the mayor alone | Editorial
December 7, 2011 · Updated 9:15 AM
Hopefully, the Oak Harbor City Council last night decided not to interfere with the powers of the new mayor, Scott Dudley. Councilman Rick Almberg’s recent motion to freeze all hiring and firing for six-months was not well thought out, and would stick the council’s collective nose where it doesn’t belong.
The power of the mayor to hire and fire employees, particularly department heads, is clear. Abridging that power would likely require a change in the city charter, or perhaps state law that governs how cities can operate.
Almberg described his motion to consider the hiring and firing freeze as based on fiscal prudence. In fact, it’s pretty clear he fears Dudley, who seldom went along with the council’s in crowd on major issues, will start lopping off heads as soon as his mayoral term begins in January.
Such fears are groundless. True, Dudley has promised to review the performance of all department heads over several months, but he hasn’t pledged to fire anyone. We would prefer that Dudley assure all department heads that a new day starts in January, under new leadership, and everyone will begin with a fresh ledger. Let bygones be bygones. But the people of Oak Harbor elected Dudley, not us, and he needs a team he can work with for the next four years. If he feels after a thorough review that a department head should go, that’s his prerogative as mayor. He’ll ultimately answer to the voters for whatever he does.
Almberg’s futile motion to rein in the powers of the mayor was also ill-timed, sparking political tensions and hard feelings when the council and mayor should be assuring the citizens that they will all work together in good faith to successfully address the city’s problems.
The city budget is under stress due to the continuing recession, the Pioneer Way project’s ultimate cost remains unknown due to the Native American remains issue, and nobody yet knows where to put the new wastewater treatment plant or how Oak Harbor can afford it without substantial outside help. This will require a focused, open approach with the new mayor, council and staff on the same page. Trying to subvert the mayor’s powers even before he takes office is exactly the wrong way to begin.