After nearly half a year of discussion, Hyde Park officials voted Wednesday to create a city administrator position — although many community members requested they wait until January before moving forward with the ordinance.
“We will be talking about it again in January,” Mayor Sharidean Flint said. “I know that is not the preferred method as has been expressed, but I really felt like it would be good to have the experience and the voices of those who have been here for a long time. … But I also feel there is a lot of value in having the voices of the new people.”
This discussion about whether to hire a city administrator dates back to at least May, when Council Member Brett Randall suggested that a city manager could benefit Hyde Park.
Since then, concerns arose from both the mayor and community members about the possibility of concentrating too much power in an unelected position like a city manager, which is why a city administrator position was selected instead.
During the public comment period on Wednesday evening, many residents, including two City Council candidates, requested that the mayor and council hold off on voting on the ordinance until after the upcoming election, although many of these individuals did express support for the concept.
“I strongly believe that the decision to create or not create the office of city administrator should be made by the new council,” said Florence White, one of the residents who spoke.
Come January, there will be three new council members. Although two incumbents attempted to run for reelection this year, they did not receive the nomination during the convention in the spring, which saw record attendance following an incident earlier in the year when two employees quit after the public works director, who the employees say pointed a gun at them during a meeting, returned to work after a six-day suspension.
Council candidate Shannon Rhodes also spoke during public comment and said the people in the community she had talked to were generally not in favor of a city manager.
“To me, the way this (ordinance) is worded sounds a lot like a city manager,” Rhodes said. “The reason I say that is I start seeing the word ‘all’ and I start to panic.”
Rhodes referred to wording in the ordinance stating that the administrator would “plan and direct all administrative activities of the city” and “manage all city employees.” The council took these concerns into consideration and modified the language in many of the places Rhodes mentioned.