Congratulations to Tacoma Mayor Strickland and the City Council for a good decision to move forward with a new city manager. This time, look for someone who is not dominant.
This mayor and council are very bright, policy- oriented and talented. They do not need a leader in the new manager; they need a follower, someone to follow their lead, their direction, their policy, their ordinances, their collective wisdom and decisions.
They represent the people. The city charter is clear. The City Council sets the policy. The city manager implements the policy.
Sounds simple, but it is not simple day to day. Any dominant manager can wrestle policy-making power away from the mayor and council. After all, the manager controls the staff and even the flow of information. So this mayor and council need to first and foremost examine the attitudes of the manager candidates.
Who sees the job as following the lead and the decisions of the council? Who will bring the tough decisions to the council instead of staff decisions?
Hire a dedicated, professional public servant who will be subservient to the collective will of the council. This mayor and council are loaded with great ideas, technical skills, political savvy and a love of Tacoma. Give them the ball, and let them run with it.
If we dont get it right in the next six years, then switch to a strong mayor/strong council form of government like Seattle, Spokane and Portland have. Let the elected officials call the shots. If they fail, vote them out of office.
(Ebersole is a former Tacoma mayor, state legislator and speaker of the state House of Representatives.)