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Some unsolicited advice for city officials

Monday night, Mayor Harold Miller and members of Weirton Council opted to choose from amongst their own ranks for the next city manager with the selection of Mike Adams, the current Ward 2 representative on council. The vote was 6-0, with Adams recusing himself from the room during the vote.

The mayor noted there were 26 applications received since the search for a new manager began in late July. He explained those applications ranged from managers of local retail establishments to a military veteran with a legal background. Rumor has it another member of council also had thrown their hat into the ring.

There have been a couple of comments questioning whether Mike Adams qualifies for the post.

Article VII, Section 1.2 of Weirton’s charter sets up the qualifications of serving as city manager. It reads: “The City Manager need not be a resident of the City or the State of West Virginia, but he must be a citizen of the United States, and he must have had at least two years of experience in municipal administration or two years of education in municipal administration or its equivalent in a college or other institute of higher learning.”

Mike has served on council since being sworn in in August 2018. He previously served as Weirton’s municipal judge, and also has served as city solicitor in Chester. So, with that knowledge and reading the charter, an argument could be made that he does.

Some previous managers have had more municipal experience, and some have had less. Some have held positions for a long period of time, others have jumped around.

What matters is whether they fit the bill as it is described under the city’s founding document, and whether they follow said document once in office.

Do I personally think the individual tasked with overseeing the day-to-day operations of a municipality should have a higher standard for hiring? Sure. But, unless a change in the city charter is made, this is what there is.

As far as I know, the two-year requirement was put in the charter during Weirton’s early days and hasn’t been changed since. Sometimes a job description needs freshened up after a few decades have passed. That might be something the city should look into, along with other parts of the charter.

I’ve now worked at this publication for 20 years. In that time, I have contributed to the news coverage of five mayoral administrations. In that same time, there have been five individuals to hold the post of city manager, with an additional handful serving as interim manager. Mike Adams will the sixth.

Each administration and each manager has had their strengths, weaknesses and challenges. It is not an easy position to enter. They are the custodians of the community, watching the operations of a variety of services provided for its residents with the use of taxpayer dollars. They answer to the public.

Following Monday’s vote, I asked Mike Adams why he would want the position. He said he still sees opportunity for Weirton. He wants to work to make that opportunity a reality.

He also expressed appreciation to those who attend the council meetings, letting their concerns be heard and raising awareness of issues in the community.

Each manager has their own style. There will be adjustments made as a result of the upcoming transition. What is needed, no matter who sits in that chair, is open lines of communication. Those lines have to be between a city manager and members of council, the manager and city employees and then out into the community itself.

So, that would be my unrequested advice, for the incoming city manager, for the new Ward 2 councilmember once he or she is selected, for all other members of council, and for anyone thinking about seeking those positions in the future. Be open and honest with the community. You are put in positions of trust by the people of this city, but remember you are not the ultimate authority.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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