Friday, March 23, 2007

The Legend of Carol Fry - the last "King of Carbondale"

If you are going to have a city manager form of government, the city manager is supposed to be your leader, your driver, your CEO. But in Carbondale, clearly we have gotten away from this idea with our longstanding city manager. He isn't a CEO, he is more a COO (Chief Operations Officer) and there isn't wasn't a CEO for the city before Brad became mayor.

The city used to have a strong city manager and his name was Carol Fry. I was too young to interact with him, but let's discuss the legend anyway. Fry was the King of Carbondale. He did whatever he pleased, handed out favors, and told citizens with concerns, "that he didn't care." He was completely non-responsive to anyone who wasn't a "friend." He had a part-time city council and he pushed through just about anything he wanted to. His public feud with Mayor Butler of Marion and many others, are still discussed and are the basis for much of the poor cooperation that exists between the small cities of the area. On top of all that, he really didn't do that good a job.

Once Fry left, it seems clear now that the city council didn't want to have that kind of CEO city manager, so they hired a different type of person to replace him. After that person left after a year, they hired our current city manager (I'm sure someone will tell me if I'm wrong about this sequence, but it really doesn't matter). The city manager we have, is exactly the kind of city manager that they intended to hire, back when he started.

In the end, a city manager led form of government can be just a corrupt and favor giving as a mayor system. The difference is that the city manager can have very little fear of the voters, because only a strong city council will fire him. In Carbondale's recent history, we have seen this and we should be more afraid of the problems of a strong city manager system, then the potential problems of a strong mayor system.

I'm expecting a comment or two about this, or maybe everyone just agrees?


Anonymous said...

Assuming your post is accurate, the city council mis-diagnosed the problem. The problem was not that Fry was too powerful, the problem is that he wasn't ethical.

With that misdiagnosis they decided they wanted a chiquaqua instead of a german shepard to run the day-to-day operations of the city.

Peter in Carbondale said...

Hiring people is like a box of chocolate's, you never know what you are going to get. Even in EE where the have purposely hire the meek, some of them mature into people with backbones after a few years.

The problem with our city government is a lack of accountability to the voters. Meek or overbearing in a mayor can be moderated by citizens. Carbondale's city managers start as they start and never get get any input. Essentially, they are unmanaged.

There is an argument that city manager led government's are less corrupt, but in Carbondale that has been a myth so far.

Anonymous said...

What does EE stand for?

Peter in Carbondale said...

Sorry, Electrical Engineering.