2013-08-08 / Editorial

Administrative qualities

By Steve Heffner

After Town Administrator Bruce Keiser announced this spring he intended to retire, I began thinking we ought to look well outside the bureaucratic box for his replacement. Unfortunately, that’s not what the town did in May, when it placed a “help wanted” ad in a national magazine.

The ad asked only for a professional with experience in “local government operations, budgeting and finance, labor relations, and creative community-based problem solving.” It also required college study of “public administration or related field,” and “at least seven years of progressive municipal management.”

In other words, mere administrative competence would satisfy the town – but not me. Instead, I think it’s time to broaden the resume and find a candidate to address four specific issues:

1. The weather:

Keiser has been a hard-working administrator over his seven-plus years here, but you’d think he could have done more about some of the truly lousy meteorological conditions we’ve endured in that time.

A good civic manager, for example, should manage to stretch out the summer, which often seems like it’s over before it starts. You put the boat in the water one day, and, in a blink, you’re hauling it, coated with frost. You pile the kids in the car for a road trip, and next thing you’re dropping them off for a new school year.

Summer simply needs to be longer

– which, logically, means winter should be shorter. And warmer. With the right administrator, I never should have to pick up a snow shovel again.

Clearly, such applicants must be on good terms with Mother Nature. No former oil-drilling or coal-mining executives need apply. Proof of having lain down in front of bulldozers or roosted with spotted owls in redwood trees would help, as would a note from Mom attesting to one’s commitment to curbside recycling.

2. The dark months:

A new administrator might improve the weather, but probably can’t do much about the solar system – specifically, about how our end of the Earth tilts away from the sun in winter, robbing us of daylight, heat and sunny dispositions.

What’s a bureaucrat to do? I’m thinking cocktails.

My ideal candidate’s resume would include extensive bartending and party-planning credentials. Applicants should outline plans for weekly shindigs at the Town Hall – say, Friday afternoon happy hours, October through April, with an open bar and free hors d’oeuvres for all residents.

On second thought, during the depths of the dark months, it is midweek when salvation seems most remote, so maybe our few hours of relief are better taken on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

One thing: the successful candidate has to fund this civic mirth without raising taxes.

3. Cannabis Conanicus:

One way to pay for the party might be had at the Jamestown Community Farm, 17 acres at the corner of Eldred Avenue and East Shore Road. There, volunteers keep some 4 acres under cultivation for vegetable crops, most of which are donated to food pantries and soup kitchens around the state – a commendable enterprise, to be sure.

The remaining 13 acres produce hay for local cows – which is OK, I guess, until you consider what could happen if some or all of that acreage were given over to growing pot.

Yes, marijuana – one of mankind’s happiest medicinal herbs, and one of the most lucrative cash crops a farmer can sow, reap and sell in ounce-size, zip-up, clear plastic baggies. For example, in northern California, America’s pot basket, farmers can grow as much as $3 million worth of reefer on a single acre. Multiply that by 13 acres, subtract our town’s annual budget of $21 million, and you’ve just bought a whole bunch of happy hour chardonnay.

So, while we need an administrator who understands municipal finances, maybe we should also look for one who knows as much about Mary Jane as Fannie Mae, and who appreciates a treasured bong as much as a treasury bond.

4. Island sexy:

Never underestimate the power of a slogan. “Boston Strong.” “Yes We Can.” “Yankees Suck.” Catchphrases with clout.

“Island Sexy” is the working anthem for a campaign I’m proposing to persuade consenting adults here that patriotism begins at home – that behind closed doors, we can canoodle our way to victory over terrorists.

Here’s the issue: the U.S. birth rate is falling, while the most backward nutcases among al Qaeda and the Taliban appear to be reproducing way faster than we can drone them. If we don’t reverse the trend, we could find ourselves outnumbered by people who see sin in some of our most vital cultural institutions, including rock ‘n’ roll, spin the bottle, and sun dresses.

Jamestown is as good a place as any to begin to fight back, as we have a plethora of good breeding stock – smart, healthy, attractive people capable of augmenting the population. All we’re missing is an official cheerleader to persuade folks that amorous entanglement is in the national interest – and that’s why I’m thinking applicants for administrator ought to be able to demonstrate skill at matchmaking.

Prior experience as a social director on a cruise ship or at a Club Med would be a plus, as would having worked for eHarmony or Christian Mingle. In a pinch, having played Yente in “Fiddler on the Roof” would count for something.

Applicants also might add their own slogans to the one I’ve mentioned, along with my two backups: “Mate America” and “Uncle Sam Wants You – To Woo!”

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