Jordan Green: What Blackwell should look for in a new City Manager

by Jordan Green

Our town is in desperate need of a leader that will bring our community into the future.

The news broke last week that embattled Blackwell City Manager Thomas “Chip” Outhier has officially retired from his position as the chief executive for the city of Blackwell.

He will turn 65 in February.

Outhier’s four-year tenure as city manager was characterized by a litany of issues with our city government. The most notable of the issues was the water contamination scare: trihalomethanes, or TTHMs, were found in the water supply in concentrations that exceeded EPA standards. Budget problems also plagued his time in Blackwell, so much so that the Blackwell Fraternal Order of Police accused him of “gross mismanagement” in a Facebook post earlier this summer that evolved into a political battle over funding for the police department.

That’s just what happened. It is not necessarily an indictment of Mr. Outhier; that’s up to you to decide.

Currently, we do not have a city manager. The Blackwell City Council did not appoint an interim manager during its Thursday meeting. Mayor T.J. Greenfield said one will be appointed at the next meeting and that the city will be looking for a permanent manager in the future. In the meantime, operations will continue as Outhier left them under the direction of Merry Whitham, the city clerk.

As the city looks to find a permanent replacement for Outhier, it’s time for us to stop and ask ourselves the direction in which we want our city to go. Here’s what I think we should look for in a new manager.

Moving into the future, we need a city manager who wants to improve our local economy. At a time when a new restaurant cannot even stay open for half a year, we need a chief executive who is willing to help entice new businesses to open up in Blackwell. Restaurants, another grocery store, and some entertainment venues are essential to the survival of our community. We need someone who is willing to help expand our economy.

We need a city manager who is transparent. A good need city manager not only upholds the highest ethical standards in his decision-making processes, but also freely discloses facts and information to the public. For our city government to survive and thrive in the future, we need a city manager who doesn’t keep secrets.

We need a city manager who is willing to make tough financial decisions without compromising public safety. When it’s time to make tough budgetary choices, a good manager will weigh the cost of cutting funding to core emergency services such as the police and fire departments before hastily slashing the budget (and hopefully avoid budget cuts all together).

Most importantly, we need a city manager who works to unite our community. It’s a fact that politics have divided our city. We need a leader who will bring people together, regardless of their stances on local issues, to work together for the betterment of our city’s infrastructure, economy, and the overall quality of life for Blackwellites. As a wise man once said, “A house divided cannot stand.” A good city manager can mend that division.

These are the main qualities a good city manager should have, in my opinion.

Allow me to make it clear that I have not made any judgements upon Mr. Outhier’s performance by outlining the qualities I believe a city manager should have. It is with a Christian spirit that I wish Mr. Outhier the best in his future endeavors.

By outlining these qualities, rather, I hope you will be better able to confer with your city leaders about the type of person we need to bring to City Hall in order to lead our city into the future. I challenge you, the reader, to identify other traits you feel a city manager should have.

We the people decide how our government is to be run, and with great power comes great responsibility. Choose wisely the type of person you want to be our next city manager, and voice your wishes to your elected officials.