In Closed Session

How many times have you watched a performance on television and thought to yourself, "I can do that"?

How often do you see someone in a position of authority and say, "I could do a better job than that."?

Me too.

And now the perfect opportunity has arrived. This week, the mayor and City Council released the brochure being used in a national search for a new city manager. Of course, it's been almost two months since former city manager Pat West spent his last work day at City Hall, but hey, the wheels of government turn slowly.

Acting City Manager Tom Modica has kept a steady hand on the wheel since, and might have the inside track to get the job permanently. But I just finished reading the recruitment brochure, and I'm convinced.

I can do that.

Let's take a look at some of the requirements and desired attributes for the next Long Beach city manager. You'll see what I mean.

The city manager in a Charter city like Long Beach is the chief administrative officer and is responsible for "the administration of all departments except the City Attorney, City Auditor, City Prosecutor, City Clerk, Civil Service Commission, Harbor Department and Water Department." I worried about this a bit until I realized I wouldn't be responsible for City Attorney Charlie Parkin or City Prosecutor Doug Haubert. Take the lawyers away, and this job is a snap.

I admit I was a bit worried whether I could provide leadership for delivery of effective municipal services "in accordance with City Council policies, the City Charter, and the Municipal Code." I can handle the Charter and the Municipal Code, but that City Council comes up with some wild ideas.

Then I looked down a little further to the description of the ideal candidate, and found this gem.

"The City Manager should be politically astute but apolitical and develop a partnership of mutual respect, trust, open communications and equal treatment to all members."

I can do that. The question is, can I do that with a straight face?

No worries though. Once I get the job, the council can't fire me unless they have a good reason, like poor performance. Considering these qualifications, that possibility seems pretty remote.

For example, the council, or the mayor, or the acting city manager or somebody came up with the brilliant idea to ask the public for comments about what they wanted in the next city manager (it's called offering buy-in). The consensus first qualification is:

"Assess the current state of the City and present a strategic framework for establishing, short and long range, priorities around affordable housing development, homelessness solutions, revenue enhancements, and investing in improving infrastructure within community neighborhoods."

I do this kind of stuff in my sleep. It sometimes loses a bit when I wake up, but hey, that's why the city manager has so many assistants and deputies.

The rubber meets the road in this hiring process when we get down to Candidate Competencies/Expectations. There are seven different categories here, ranging from the previously mention political astuteness to being a regional player and collaborator. As you all know, I'm quite the player. I do have to work on that collaboration thing, though.

The educational requirements aren't too bad — you have to have a bachelor's degree from college. Got that. It says a master's degree in public or business is highly desirable, but it isn't required, so I qualify.

The brochure attempts to concretely define desired leadership skills — a fool's task, if you ask me. But I do pretty well here, too.

Passion for good government? Got that. In spades. Action and results oriented? I meet deadlines for a living. Establish trust and credibility? Still trying for that, but I've been at it here for more than 27 years.

 But wait. I'm afraid this list hides my real downfall, the one reason these recruiters might turn me down.

The very last attribute is, quote, "Resilient and calm under pressure; Displays a good sense of humor." Pressure? I can handle that. But a good sense of humor? How can you have that and still consider a career in government? It's an oxymoron, that's what it is.

But I know when I'm beat. I'll withdraw my application. I'll let all those young whipper-snappers go after it.

The newest permanent (sort of) city manager will be picked next spring. Can you do that?

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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