MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel has operated under multiple forms of government over the past three years, but with the hiring of a new city manager earlier this month, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen hopes to make a final adjustment Tuesday.
Last week, the BMA held a workshop with new City Manager Mike Housewright and MTAS advisor Pat Hardy to discuss what type of government the town should adopt.
Following an hour-long discussion, and at the recommendation of Hardy, the BMA agreed to tweak a pending ordinance which establishes the city administrator’s duties by adding the power to hire, fire and discipline city employees.
That ordinance will come up for final approval at Tuesday’s BMA meeting. It will give Mount Carmel its fourth type of government in the past three years.
Under the administration of previous mayor Larry Frost, Mount Carmel operated under a strong mayor form of government, in which the mayor supervises the day-to-day affairs of the city.
Strong mayor government features a centralized administration in the office of the mayor, who has the authority to hire, fire and discipline employees, make purchases and control the day-to-day operation of the city.
Following a series of controversial hiring and policy decisions on the part of Frost, the BMA voted to change to a weak mayor form of government, in which the seven-member BMA as a whole makes day-to-day administrative decisions.
Hardy noted that although weak mayor “removes absolute power from a bad mayor,” he also described it as a “giant mess” because there is no central authority with the ability to make independent decisions on a daily basis.
Shortly after removing the mayor’s powers, the BMA hired former mayor Gary Lawson as a part-time city manager.
That’s when the BMA adopted what Hardy describes as a form of the “council administrator” type of government, under which the city manager controls the day-to-day operation of the city, but the BMA maintains the power to hire, fire and discipline employees.
The next form of government that the BMA will consider adopting next week is called council manager, in which the city manager has complete responsibility for the workforce, including hiring and firing, as well as complete responsibility for development of the budget and day-to-day operation of the city.
Among the duties and responsibilities Housewright will assume as outlined in the ordinance are to:
1. Administer the business of the municipality.
2. Make recommendations to the BMA for improving public services.
3. Keep the BMA advised of the conditions and needs of the city.
4. Report to the BMA the condition of all city-owned property and recommend repairs and replacements when needed.
5. Suggest the priority of programs or projects involving public works or public improvements.
6. Recommend specific personnel positions and propose personnel policies and procedures.
7. Act as a purchasing agent for the municipality.
8. Prepare and submit an annual budget and capital program.
9. Employ, promote, discipline, suspend and discharge all employees and department heads in accordance with personnel policies and procedures.
10. Perform such other duties as may from time to time be designated or required by the board.
Mayor Chris Jones noted that there’s an election coming up next November. In small town politics, one election can change everything about how a town operates.
“We as a board have an opportunity right now to set a precedent and to protect our infrastructure, protect our employees and to have one person pretty much take the politics out of our (employees) and allow them to answer to one person,” Jones said. “... This is going to protect everything we’ve built so far and take the politics out of it. When the next administration comes in, (Housewright) will be able to transition right into it and continue on everything we’ve started.
“I think we chose wisely in our interview process. He’s knowledgeable and I think we need to give this man a chance.”