Garner council members are considering the idea of bringing in a consultant to help them work out their differences with town manager Hardin Watkins. That seems like an overly dramatic move on their part, unless they are trying to send Watkins a signal that the end of his tenure is near.
Ostensibly, the consultant is there to arbitrate between the two parties, but that seems unnecessary to us. There are no layers of bureaucracy between the council and the manager. He reports to the council. He must find a way to satisfy the five council members and the mayor. They must find a way to accept their political defeats and expect the manager to do the work required by the council majority even if it isn’t what they would personally prefer to see him doing.
If, instead of serving as an intermediary, the goal of the consultant could be to help the council find ways to avoid micromanaging the work of the manager and town staff. The consultant, which council members seem to have already zeroed in on could help council members better understand their role as policy makers and not day-to-day managers. If council members were to do that, they might find themselves less worried about how the manager does his job, so long as he does it.
The situation in Garner – a six month probationary period, for lack of a better word – is an odd one that puts everyone on pins and needles. It’s hard to know right now if the manager is fully committed to his work in Garner or if he’s busy at least part of the time looking for a new job in a place where people would better appreciate his worth. It’s hard to know if council members are just biding their time until they can cut ties with their manager or if they are setting realistic expectations for him.
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Whatever the case, council members and the manager would be better served – as would the people of Garner – if the manager and the council simply got together, had a meeting of the minds and set a course for the future. It wouldn’t take a consultant to oversee that process.