Town Managers under Siege CARROLL COUNTY

August 30, 1993

The recent dismissal of Taneytown town manager Joseph A. Mangini is symptomatic of the tension that has been building between the part-time elected officials and the full-time appointed managers in Carroll County's towns.

Just look at Manchester, where relations between the town manager and town council have been rocky for months. Or over in New Windsor, where the clerk-treasurer, who had 45 years of service and acted as the town manager, was replaced due to differences with the newly elected mayor.

These problems are not unique. Just about every other year, the Maryland Municipal League offers a workshop on improving relations between professional managers and elected officials. Although elected officials, who are accountable to the people, are supposed to set policy and the managers are to carry it out, the reality is that many managers become de facto policy makers. The day-to-day administration of municipal government is generally in their hands. The full-time managers often make decisions that the elected officials then second-guess. Further complicating matters is that the most expedient action to solve a problem is often not the most politically palatable.

Despite these inherent difficulties, elected officials and town managers can work together. Taneytown's council and mayor related well with former manager Neal Powell, and Sykesville's town manager, James Schumacher, has had a smooth tenure.

The key to success seems to be that the mayor and council have a clear understanding of what they expect from the professional manager. Areas of authority have to be clearly drawn. When confronted with the need for a quick decision, the town manager has to know which elected officials to contact. Conflicts invariably arise when communication breaks down.

Professional town managers are necessary today. They are familiar with technical nuances of municipal finance as well the -- intricacies of federal and state regulations governing everything from sewage discharge to flood control. Even if these towns elected full-time mayors, they would probably still need managers for technical expertise. Despite the current raft of problems, don't look for the professional town managers to disappear from Carroll's municipal landscape.

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