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Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

Confehr: Good stewards have a successor

Friday, August 19, 2011

Every once in a while, someone comes into this office on Lewisburg's public square, complaining about what's going on in City Hall, or among the county commissioners.

The school board isn't exempt. In fact, it's one of the usual targets.

Often enough, complaints come with a suggestion that so-and-so ought to be fired. Sometimes there's a complaint that people don't care enough to get riled up and demand change.

Elections are one way to accomplish that, but some officials are hired, so elections won't accomplish the change.

Back in the 1950s and '60s when the Cold War was raging, there were similar complaints and some of them were aimed at the Russians. Many international leaders wished for the removal of then Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, famous for among other things the "shoe-banging incident," accompanying Richard Nixon on a grocery tour, and backing down when offered a face-saving opportunity during the Cuban missile crisis.

Kremlinologists admitted the free world might be better without Khrushchev, but they also advised, "Better the devil you know."

So, what to do?

Consider the tale of a city attorney who wanted to change careers, get into land development, and leave his friends in City Hall with reliable legal counsel.

He sought to establish, and won approval for, an assistant city attorney position. That way, he reasoned, if he got hit by a truck, the city wouldn't suffer. While there were some lawyer jokes about hiring a truck driver, the message got through. About a year or so after there was an assistant city attorney, the longtime counselor was on his way to what he thought would be greener pastures.

He was a good steward.

So, here and now, if there really is a good reason to change players in the middle of what some folks see as a disturbing set of circumstances in local government, the message is that it's a good idea to have a successor in mind.

How to do that gracefully in county government might be through a system that was attempted before the August 2010 election. Members of the previous county commission were reacting to a recurring "write up," or "finding" by the state auditors who advocated central purchasing. The auditors' recommendation was to be accomplished through central accounting for both the school system and the county government. It seemed to make sense a couple of years ago to enough commissioners to get it to a vote, but it failed for lack of a majority vote.

Regardless of whether any offices should be reorganized, there are a couple of significant points to remember. Have a successor in mind and make sure the selection process is not only legal, but transparent so there's no unnecessary suspicion.

Finally, one might also reconsider Khrushchev. Despite his shoe-banging incident and a tantrum when he yelled, "We shall bury you," he was also responsible for the partial de-Stalinization of Russia.

Maybe local officials are just doing their best amid very difficult circumstances.

Fortunately, we have no Khrushchev.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.Every once in a while, someone comes into this office on Lewisburg's public square, complaining about what's going on in City Hall, or among the county commissioners.

The school board isn't exempt. In fact, it's one of the usual targets.

Often enough, complaints come with a suggestion that so-and-so ought to be fired. Sometimes there's a complaint that people don't care enough to get riled up and demand change.

Elections are one way to accomplish that, but some officials are hired, so elections won't accomplish the change.

Back in the 1950s and '60s when the Cold War was raging, there were similar complaints and some of them were aimed at the Russians. Many international leaders wished for the removal of then Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, famous for among other things the "shoe-banging incident," accompanying Richard Nixon on a grocery tour, and backing down when offered a face-saving opportunity during the Cuban missile crisis.

Kremlinologists admitted the free world might be better without Khrushchev, but they also advised, "Better the devil you know."

So, what to do?

Consider the tale of a city attorney who wanted to change careers, get into land development, and leave his friends in City Hall with reliable legal counsel.

He sought to establish, and won approval for, an assistant city attorney position. That way, he reasoned, if he got hit by a truck, the city wouldn't suffer. While there were some lawyer jokes about hiring a truck driver, the message got through. About a year or so after there was an assistant city attorney, the longtime counselor was on his way to what he thought would be greener pastures.

He was a good steward.

So, here and now, if there really is a good reason to change players in the middle of what some folks see as a disturbing set of circumstances in local government, the message is that it's a good idea to have a successor in mind.

How to do that gracefully in county government might be through a system that was attempted before the August 2010 election. Members of the previous county commission were reacting to a recurring "write up," or "finding" by the state auditors who advocated central purchasing. The auditors' recommendation was to be accomplished through central accounting for both the school system and the county government. It seemed to make sense a couple of years ago to enough commissioners to get it to a vote, but it failed for lack of a majority vote.

Regardless of whether any offices should be reorganized, there are a couple of significant points to remember. Have a successor in mind and make sure the selection process is not only legal, but transparent so there's no unnecessary suspicion.

Finally, one might also reconsider Khrushchev. Despite his shoe-banging incident and a tantrum when he yelled, "We shall bury you," he was also responsible for the partial de-Stalinization of Russia.

Maybe local officials are just doing their best amid very difficult circumstances.

Fortunately, we have no Khrushchev.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.