Taking direct responsibility for managing department heads off the town manager’s plate makes sense in a town the size of Garner, but filling positions created by restructuring should be done carefully.
Garner Town Manager Hardin Watkins has recommended a restructuring that would include some rearranging of reporting roles and create a new assistant town manager position to compliment the one that already exists.
As the town grows and more services are offered, the town will continue to add people to the payroll. As a manager, Watkins is expected to take a long view of things and work to improve the town’s fortunes for the long term.
That’s hard to accomplish when each day is filled with routine daily management tasks.
The restructuring process Watkins has outlined makes good sense too. He has grouped many related departments together under a single manager, which keeps his assistant managers from bouncing around among disparate issues and it helps those assistant managers make decisions with a view toward how those decisions would impact the town and the staff.
Here’s the catch, though.
Watkins has proposed filling a new assistant manager position with an existing department head. Though he has not singled anyone out, he could run in to trouble if he identifies an internal candidate without a formal interview process and a truly competitive opportunity for people to advance into the position. Garner is fortunate to have a number of competent department heads, and other staffers who could shoulder the additional load of an assistant manager.
What might seem like a sure bet if the hiring process is truncated could lead to disillusionment among other contenders who didn’t get serious consideration and it could mean missing a diamond in the rough if there is a candidate who actually might be better than any pre-anointed figure.
And, so as council members deliberate over Watkins’ idea, we hope they will see the merits in it and, should they approve his plan, we hope they will encourage Watkins to implement the plan with a open mind about filling the roles.