About midway through a 40-plus year management career, I became interested in the phenomenon of organizational change. I learned that people don’t necessarily resist change, but do resist the way change affects them personally.
The proposal to convert Washougal from a strong mayor to a council-manager type of municipal government portends the type of change that begets both benefits and difficulties. Among the latter are the effects it will have on current and future council members and candidates, as well as the city administrator.
I leave to others the task of making the case for change. My focus in this editorial is on the effects the proposed change would have on the job of the city council, and the qualifications needed for the job. These issues deserve consideration during the debate.
Under a council-manager government, council members’ duties change significantly. As a group, they would be responsible to oversee the performance of the city manager. That drastic change in level of responsibility suggests the need for a new skill set.
An ideally suited council member who is overseeing the city manager would have managerial training and experience, and familiarity with basic methods for ensuring accountability, including accounting, performance evaluation, contract management, and performance metrics. While council members under the strong mayor system can acquire these types of qualifications on the job because they have the luxury of having a mayor responsible for directly supervising the city administrator, council members under a council-manager government would need to come to their new task already equipped with the knowledge and abilities required to properly supervise the city manager.