What Really Helps Keep You Out of Trouble with Elected Officials?

Three ICMA members answer this question.

ARTICLE | Mar 27, 2018

 

Lawrence Werner

County Manager

Douglas County, Nevada

lwerner@douglasnv.us

During my 40+ years as a local government manager, what I have found most successful in staying on the good side of elected officials is maintaining open communications, being totally truthful no matter what the situation, and not placing officials in embarrassing situations.

It is essential to keep officials informed on a timely basis, sharing as much information as reasonably possible.

While there may be moments of intense discussion, I have found it best to not give the sense of arguing when in public. At times, this becomes fairly dicey, particularly in a public setting where it needs to be made clear that an elected official's position on a topic under discussion is not based on correct information.

 

Lorie Tinfow

City Manager

Benicia, California

ltinfow@ci.benicia.ca.us

In my experience, the most important thing is regularly scheduled, two-way, face-to-face conversations.

I meet with the mayor every week and with each councilmember at least every other week. We go over what's coming up on council meeting agendas as well as status updates on projects and programs. I use e-mail and telephone calls too, but there is no substitute for talking face-to-face.

In addition, it's easy to focus on telling councilmembers what I think they need to know, but it's at least as important to be a good, empathetic listener. Demonstrating that I understand their point of view helps build the kind of strong relationships that can weather challenges, misunderstandings, and delivering difficult news.

 

Jeff Molinari

City Manager

Walterboro, South Carolina

jmolinari@walterborosc.org

The key is to develop trust with each member of the council, and it all starts with communication.

Whenever any councilmember asks me for information, asks me to look into a matter, or asks me to take care of a specific matter, I make sure that I complete the request and follow-up with that person in a timely manner. All requests are treated equally so as not to give the perception of playing favorites.

One of the challenges of managing a smaller city is that word travels fast, especially in the age of social media. I never want a member of the council to be surprised or blindsided by something they have heard or read.

Technology has been a great asset in this regard. I can send a text message to each councilmember at any time and provide information anytime something happens in the city that councilmembers need to know about.

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