Many cities throughout the country are fortunate by design and elections to have outstanding leadership in local government. Unfortunately, Naperville, Illinois is not one of those cities. It has been in the past, and it may be in the future, but currently Naperville is experiencing a huge void in effective management and pro-citizen leadership. The Naperville city council is composed of nine members including a mayor. Three of those members for the most part represent their constituency in an effective manner, three are mediocre, and three are clueless with regard to the progress of the city. Hence two-thirds of the council are steering the city in the wrong direction. What makes this far more concerning is that Naperville has a council-manager style of government. Since its inception, it has become the most popular form of government in the United States. However ‘big’ and ‘popular’ are not synonymous with successful, efficient or valuable.
According to the International City/Council Management Association (ICMA)
The council-manager plan is the system of local government that combines the strong political leadership of elected officials in the form of a council or other governing body, with the strong managerial experience of an appointed local government manager. The plan establishes a representative system where all power is concentrated in the elected council as a whole and where the council hires a professionally trained manager to oversee the delivery of public services.
By definition, this form of government does not suit the city of Naperville, or maybe more appropriately the current group of elected officials does not suit this type of government. Again, by definition, this form of government requires ‘strong political leadership’ with ‘strong managerial experience’.
What the city of Naperville needs is a city manager that gets the job done, and the job is to ‘oversee the delivery of public services’ and make the city a better place to live for its citizens, while spending and saving money wisely.
The Catch-22 here is that the Naperville city council approves the hiring of a city manager (Doug Krieger) who then is accountable to the city council and not the citizens. If the city council is weak, then a city manager has carte blanche to do as he sees fit with no consequences. Considering the Naperville city council is two-thirds ineffective, that places the citizens of Naperville in a precarious position.
Since Naperville government lacks the leadership necessary to become a first-class city, what are the citizens of Naperville to do?
Well they could:
• vote the rascals out of office, but this could take years to replace six of nine city council members
• replace the city manager, but only the city council can do that
• change its form of government to a ‘strong mayor’ style
Or just maybe the city manager of Naperville could be like the city manager of Keller City, Texas (Dan O’Leary). Keller City is in many ways similar to Naperville in demographics, which we will cover in a future posting. He felt he was not needed, and laid himself off. He said the city has two assistant city managers and a third one (himself) is not necessary. That is the epitome of strong leadership. By doing so, he saved the city of Keller $176,000 (his annual salary) not counting benefits. Doug Krieger could not only be a hero, he could save our city many dollars in salary alone, and isn’t that part of the job of a city manager; saving money for the citizens.