Wanted: a servant leader

Next city administrator should know who's boss -- the people

“All government, of right, originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole. Public officers are the trustees and servants of the people and are at all times amenable to them.”

 

– Constitution of the State of Georgia, Article I, Section II, Part I

 

Augusta leaders appear to have a pool of three fine candidates from which to choose the next city administrator.

The primary focus in selecting Augusta’s top nonelected official in the coming days will be determining which candidate possesses the best mix of “hard skills,” such as experience and aptitude, and “soft skills,” such as personality and attitude.

If we were part of the selection process, one of the main – if not the main – attributes we would look for in a prospective city manager is the qualities of a servant leader.

That’s because the best candidate to oversee a consolidated city-county government operation with $950 million in assets and 2,700 employees is one who understands the public is the real boss.

We might even bluntly ask the question: Whom does the city administrator work for?

Any answer other than “the people of Augusta” would be a negative mark on our checklist.

To be clear, the 10 elected Augusta commissioners and mayor merely are the city administrator’s immediate supervisors. The only power those 11 people sitting on the raised dais at city hall possess are the ones we the people choose to grant them.

It’s worth reminding the citizenry, especially in this day and age, that those leaders all work for, and are accountable to, you the public.

The seats on which they sit belong to you. The computers they use at the municipal building belong to you. The documents those computers contain belong to you. The business they conduct is your business.

We hope the next administrator understands his or her job is only made easier when a spirit of openness is fostered with the public.

Running a government in a community as demographically diverse as Augusta is a challenge for any public administrator. Trying to run it under a veil of secrecy – the contents of the previous city administrator’s workplace hard drive went missing – only squanders resources and foments public distrust.

Open meetings and open records laws exist for a reason. As the Georgia Municipal Association says in the 10th edition of Government in the Sunshine, they are “a reminder that government is created by and for the people to promote the common good and that
public officials and employees are the servants, not the masters.

“These public servants are expected to execute their duties in an honest and trustworthy manner that can be reviewed, judged and critiqued by the people. The only way the people can regulate their government is if they know what it is doing. Thus, openness in government must be the rule and not the exception.”

That spirit of openness is reiterated in the very first sentence of the city’s own statement of beliefs, which reads, “We believe that open, honest communications with the public and among governing officials will assure the accomplishment of our community objectives.”

We certainly urge city leaders to have that in mind when they choose their candidate.

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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon