Not surprisingly, Anthony Cox of Radford, Virginia was named the new Morristown "city administrator-select" at yesterday's 11:30 AM special called meeting of council. Wonder how many working taxpayers were able to leave work and make it to that meeting?
Pat Hardy of MTAS and Interim City Administrator Lynn Wampler had presented the council with a slate of four finalists from which to select a new city administrator to replace the "retired" Jim Crumley.
Two of the four finalists (Angie Carrier of White House, TN and Jody Baltz of Tullahoma, TN) were placed among the final four at the last-minute because of their "close acquaintance" with MTAS' Pat Hardy and Interim City Administrator Lynn Wampler. Although Baltz met the advertised qualifications for the job, selection of Carrier or Baltz would have raised eyebrows since apparently both got an automatic pass to the final four--with no telephone interview--based on MTAS connections.
Of the two who went through the entire process and who actually interviewed with Wampler prior to their inclusion as finalists (Anthony Cox and James Payne), Cox emerged the winner.
Cox has many tasks before him--chief of which is cleaning up the financial mess left by Crumley and company. Hopefully, the Mayor and Councilmembers are now ready to pay attention and be active participants in the operation of city government instead of being a rubberstamp.
Regardless of who is City Administrator, the buck always starts and stops with the Mayor and City Council.
The Mayor and Council appoint an administrator, but they can't just walk away at that point and give free rein to that person, no matter who it is. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The absolute power given to Crumley led to the current financial debacle at the City Center with a huge assist by a Mayor and Council who fiddled while Morristown burned.
Government at all levels should be a system of checks-and-balances. The Administrator is "selected" to be the day-to-day point man at the City Center, but the "elected" Mayor and Council are the people's representatives in setting policy and acting as a check-and-balance on the power given to the administrator.
Morristown needs an honest administrator who will operate city government like an open book and in a financially responsible manner. Morristown needs honest budgeting without the inflated revenue projections, bloated spending, and excessive borrowing/debt of the past.
Anthony Cox has a huge task before him.
He can't go wrong by relying on the two most basic tried-and-true financial principles: Don't spend more than you take in and realize that excessive debt will cripple and enslave you.
At an ever-increasing pace over the past few years, City officials spent more than they took in, created wish lists, and then spent and borrowed more.
Of course, when you get to spend OPM (other people's money), it is easy to come up with $100 million dollar wish lists and all kinds of nifty spending ideas (e.g., brick-paving machines). It's also easy to go deeper and deeper into debt when you get to use OPM to pay that debt back. It's easy to set up perks for friends and associates when OPM pays it all. It's easy to sign no-bid contracts and work out sweetheart deals when OPM picks up the tab. It's easy to buy the latest, fanciest, and chromiest vehicles when OPM pays for them and the gas, too. Two-million dollar cost overrun (Veterans Parkway)? Not a problem when OPM pays it.
The citizens are watching their government and their government officials more closely than ever before--not just in Morristown and Hamblen County but in cities and counties all across the nation.
OPM belongs to the citizens and taxpayers. It is not free money. It is not for frivolous, pet projects. It is not to be wasted. It is not for excessive spending or excessive borrowing.