Many years ago, I was attending graduate classes at the Fels Institute of Local & State Government, Wharton Graduate School, at the University of Pennsylvania. (This is a heck of a long way to tell people where you got your master’s degree.) We were taught many varied and good subjects, such as courses in finance, planning, administration, personnel and several others of broad interest while also writing a master’s thesis. It was a fun time. Since the idea behind the courses then was to train city managers, we naturally concentrated on city problems. In fact, if you graduated and didn’t go on to become a city manager or a related position, you were officially frowned upon by those responsible for your obtaining the degree of Master of Governmental Administration.
Now the instructors didn’t just educate on dry academics, but there was effort spent to make certain that you gave your best in an efficient manner. You were expected to do this even if your employers were elected officials who would let you be aware that they really knew more about running a city than you did. This could easily complicate matters for a city manager depending on where he was and the make-up of the elected city council. The city manager was expected to turn the other cheek when necessary – the elected officials were not expected to worry about such niceties. This is not necessarily bad as compromise can be very virtuous, and enables good things to be done for a city.
A city manager was expected to treat the elected officials with respect. I found this very early in my career when I moved from being an assistant to a city manager and accepted my first city manager position. This small city in Pennsylvania had just changed to a city manager form. I became known as its first City Manager even though someone else was hired before me. The reason being that he lasted less than two months on the job. This was due to his response to a question from a council member. His response was, “That’s the dumbest question I have ever heard.” I enjoyed my time there, and I worked with a great bunch of elected officials who truly wanted to improve their community.
However, as I completed 42 years in the city manager field not all of the elected officials felt the way those in the small Pennsylvania community did. Some were so bad that I simply left for another community as I did not want to be tarred with a brush spread by some elected folks. Incidents like that were one of the reasons I retired earlier than I originally anticipated and came to The Villages. (Of course, the Blonde in the House tells everyone that it was because I saw all the softball fields. She does have a point there!)
Back in college it was suggested that we take to heart the words in the Athenian Oath which was sworn to by youths in Athens some 2000 or so years ago.At that point in time Athens was not just a city, but a city-state. They ran their own affairs and did not have to worry about a far-off governor or president. They did as they thought best for their people. In case you have never seen the oath, and are eager to do so, it is short and follows.
We will ever strive for the ideals and sacred things of the City.
Both alone and with many: we will unceasingly seek to quicken the
Sense of Public Duty.
We will revere and obey the City’s laws: We will transmit this City
Not only not less.
But greater, better, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to
Do you think that out elected officials on all levels might do better if took the Athenian Oath to heart and acted accordingly? While you think that over, let me wish you a:
Merry Christmas and a much better New Year!
Barry Evans is a columnist for Villages-News.com.