We’re now in week three of the Cookingham Connection. Today, we hear from Roger Kemp, a consultant, adjunct professor, and former city manager. Roger is an International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Credentialed Manager. He has served as city manager for Oakland, California; Clifton, New Jersey; and Meriden, Connecticut.
You have to “give and take” all along the way, but when you must give ground to the “left,” be sure that when you return toward the center, you go to the “right” as far as possible. In “giving,” never do anything that may be illegal or that is contrary to the basic principles of the plan of government with which you are working.
My staff recommendations to elected officials were always “professional in nature,” and had no political influence in their preparation. After all, I’m a professional city manager, and my (our staff’s) recommendations are professional in their nature, and in the best interest of our taxpayers—whom we all serve.
During my city management career, I had some “conservative” city councilors say that they thought that I was “liberal” because of my/our city’s staff recommendations. On the other hand, in another city, I had “liberal” city council members tell me that I was a “conservative” due to the fiscally conservative staff recommendations made by me or our staff.
I told these city council members that I’m politically neutral and do not favor one political party/philosophy over another. I respect all of the elected officials since they were elected by the citizens, and they are my boss—regardless of their political affiliation, which I do not care about administratively or professionally.
My job, as a professional city manager, is to make “professional recommendations” that are in the best interest of the taxpayers and are administratively responsible and fiscally conservative. No politics involved!
They had my respect, and my goal was that I would obtain their respect. This philosophy of a professional city manager worked well in those communities that I served on both coasts of the United States, in cities ranging in population from about 30,000 to over 300,000.
After all, city managers are “professional” and not “political” in their nature. I would always tell elected officials, “Doing the right thing means more to me than my job.” It has to do with professionalism, honesty, and integrity.
The Cookingham Connection blog series is published in partnership with Emerging Local Government Leaders (ELGL). ELGL members are local government leaders with a passion for connecting, communicating, and educating.