Learning how to kill a zombie
Like innocent townsfolk in a zombie movie, Marion County once again is being visited by the very embodiment of the undead.
Voters killed the idea once. Commissioners killed a second time after it rose from the grave the first time. Now it appears to be coming back again, like the Ghost of Christmas Future, seeking thirds at the county’s budgetary trough.
Marion County might well operate more efficiently with a county administrator. But what’s holding the county back isn’t lack of an administrator. It’s lack of willingness among county commissioners to give up a style of micromanagement that, if it persists, would make hiring of an administrator just another in a long line of wasteful expenses at a time when everyone except government seems to be tightening belts rather than growing fat.
If and only if commissioners are willing to stop inspecting every pothole and stop spending days debating such topics as the quality of road gravel and which way doors should open on transfer stations would the hiring of an administrator make any sense.
For an administrator to work, the only people appearing before commissioners would be elected officials and the administrator himself or herself. All other county employees, including elected department heads, would go through the administrator, and he or she would take whatever issues arise to commissioners without dragging other employees along.
It also would make sense for the county to eliminate a fair number of other positions if it hired an administrator. The county counselor and emergency manager might be prime examples. If the county really wanted to be efficient, it could lobby the legislature to consolidate a few elective positions into a centralized recordkeeping operation run by a professional.
We’ve already seen a three-ring circus turn into a five-ring circus by expanding the number of commissioners. Adding a ringmaster with no power or authority would be tantamount to adding yet another barker to the shouting match.
— ERIC MEYER
Last modified April 29, 2020