Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Roanoke City Manager says Council suffers from no clear direction – decides they can’t dodge the media

City Manager Darlene Burcham

City Manager Darlene Burcham

City Manager Darlene Burcham’s recommendation came out of the blue to council members after lunch in the EOC. Burcham told council that they were long overdue for a strategic planning session. “Staff has suffered from not having some very clear and overarching direction from the council,” said Burcham.

Goals and objectives for the year need to be defined for a new city manager. Burcham stressed to council members that anyone interviewing for the position would want to know their plans and priorities.

Burcham had communicated with Councilman Dave Trinkle and other members the need to set aside some planning and team-building activity time. There was  one “retreat” back in September 2008 but a suggested follow-up never happened. She suggested the activity be conducted out-of-town to avoid distractions.

Council member Mason noted that the school board was able to go off site without “benefit of media.” Council member Dave Trinkle said he thinks it is needed for both strategy and team-building with the possibility of discussing what they wanted to see in a new city manager.

Mayor Bowers was not opposed to going away but did not agree with Burcham that Council should come to some understanding of our strategic plan without the new administrator. Bowers said he too would find it hard to make time – “that puts it off to sometime around spring.” In any case it would be around January for Bowers. He said a better time to do this would be after a council election.

Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea was in agreement but recognized that Mason was in a run for the House of Delegates and should she win they would have to replace her.

Bowers interjected that interviewing for a city manager will take “intensive time” for council members. “This will give us some team-building opportunity right there,” said Bowers.

There is no perfect time agreed Trinkle – election years – people coming and going and now a city manager change. Trinkle suggested doing it soon in the context of a city manager search then again after the next election. Council member Anita Price suggested a mini-retreat. “We don’t have an opportunity to have informal talks amongst all of us,” said Price. The message changes when we all get together versus “little conversations here and there.”

Council member Rupert Cutler brought up the meeting with Human Resources and the selection of an executive search service.  We’ll have to be able to tell applicants what we expect of them. “How do we do that unless we have some consensus among ourselves,” said Cutler.

Bowers asked city attorney Bill Hackworth if council could do it in an executive session. Hackworth said they could only conduct the city manager interviews in closed session.  Since it has to be open Bowers said we may as well meet in the EOC.

Cutler said “candidly if it were a little difficult to get to there would  be fewer citizens there.” Lea jumped in saying, “I don’t think you’re going to dodge the media.”

Trinkle said, “not that you want to dodge the media” someone yelled out there’s Valerie as I was the only “media” in the room…. they all laughed as they forgot I was there. Then they called me a blogger … I wanted to tell them “that was even worse then the MSM.”

Trinkle then said the school board said they have an informal agreement with the media. They gave them some leash time to discuss issues – in turn the media would show up late in the day and were then briefed. There are ways to have a little bit of a dialogue said Trinkle.

Burcham said the way it used to work during retreats we had in 2001 we had an understanding with the media when Todd Jackson was on the beat. They came at the last hour for the results but stayed away during the process. 

Council members agreed that two activities were needed – one for the new city manager and another for strategy and team-building long term. Mason said with the possibility of a new member in December and in July of the following year it may be better to focus on the immediate issue of criteria for a new city manager.

Cutler agreed that, “we need to put our best foot forward when talking to city manager candidates.”  Following Council’s closed session where they selected a search firm for a new city manager they set the date of September 16 announcing it at the end of the 2:00 council meeting. Time and place TBD.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Politics, Roanoke City Politics

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Comments (1)

Robert Craig

September 9th, 2009 at 12:58 PM    

What the council needs is adult leadership and guidance.

Bob Craig

Comments are not moderated. Notify any abuse at put ABUSE in the subject and the offensive post.

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