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Guest column: In defense of professional administration

in Breaking News/Opinion

By Keene Winters

Actions speak louder that words, and silence is one of the most telling actions of all.

In my June 28th letter to the editor, I theorized that the Weston Village Board never wanted to bring Daniel Guild back despite what they were saying.  Their excessively punitive actions coupled with their unwillingness to present Guild with specific infractions and allow him an opportunity to refute those allegations made their intentions clear.  The hype about performance was just a smoke screen.

Keene Winters served two terms on the Wausau City Council from April 2012 to April 2016. (Photo credit: Life Touch)

Similarly, the village board’s silence about plans to fill the administrative position is telling.  It makes it clear that Guild, himself, was never the target, rather it was the administrator position and the checks and balances it brings to local government that is in jeopardy.

Unless I miss my guess, the silence and lack of agenda items about replacing Guild suggest that a walking quorum of the village board is secretly discussing the elimination of the professional administrator position and vesting the day-to-day management of village personnel in the village president.  That means that in April of 2019, Weston will hire its chief administrative officer (CAO) through an election rather than screening professional resumes and interviewing candidates.

This leads to a further observation. The maneuver to destroy Guild in order to shift the CAO to an elected position was remarkably cold and calculating.  In watching this Machiavellian drama play out, it is hard to imagine that the end result will be more transparent, honest or competent village government.

Of course, all this conjecture could be rendered meaningless by a statement from the Weston Village board that it intends to fill the administrator position.

Somebody tell me I am wrong.

Administrators do more than bring a technical level of expertise to the management of local government. For example, imagine going to the doctor and getting a panel of blood work done. The feedback you get tells you whether your scores are in the normal range or not. In some cases, corrective action is indicated. Professional administrators provide that fiscal panel of blood work to policy-makers that helps them keep a community healthy and operating efficiently.

By their nature, professional administrators are in a unique position to provide that guidance. They almost always have college degrees or masters degrees in a relevant discipline, have experience working in local government in other communities and have a network of fellow professionals in civic jobs draw upon. That gives them perspective on what works and what does not.

By deciding to elect the village CAO, the community effectively agrees to limit the applicant pool to a small group of local residents who are unlikely to possess any of the learning or experience just discussed. The residency requirement makes it essentially impossible to find someone with experience from outside the community.

People know that I am an advocate for the administrator form of government. So, it would be no surprise if I said that losing the administrator position would be a step backwards for Weston. Regardless of where you come down on that debate, I hope we all can agree that concern is warranted about the secretive way that the new village board operates and how that forecloses public debate on important matters such as this.

Like I said in my June letter to the editor, it is time for the Weston Village Board to be honest and open about its goals and the rationale behind them.

Editor’s note: The views of our readers and guest columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot and Review. To submit a letter, email editor@wausaupilotandreview.com or mail to P.O. Box 532, Wausau, Wis., 54402-0532.

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