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Kenneth City council candidates disagree on hiring professional manager

KENNETH CITY — Voters could be asked to transform this town's government if some of the candidates for Town Council have anything to say about it.

The idea is to bring in a professional — a city manager — to run the day-to-day activities of the town. Under the current system, each council member is responsible for the daily business of an individual Kenneth City governmental department.

But although three of the candidates agree on the concept, they disagree on the details. And one candidate, Phil Redisch, says the idea is unrealistic.

If the city manager is good, then he or she would "end up leaving after the first year" for a larger municipality, said Redisch, a former council member. And, the cost would be prohibitive.

"I don't think that it would work," Redisch said. "I think it's a good town just the way it is."

But political newcomer Troy Campbell and incumbents Ron Sneed and Allen Schopp want to give the idea a try.

For Schopp, the idea starts with a charter review commission made up of town residents. The town charter, or constitution, sets up the style of government — in Kenneth City's case, a council-as-manager format.

That group, Schopp said, should look at the concept of changing over to a council-manager form, in which the council would set policy while the city manager carries out that policy and handles daily tasks. Any such change would require a vote of Kenneth City residents before it could happen.

The change "would allow us to have a professional at the helm," Schopp said. "At least look into it, see what the residents feel."

Sneed said, "I think we do need to go to a part-time city manager, if that's possible."

Such a move, he said, would eliminate a lot of the negativity in town government. It would also eliminate the difficulty of elected officials overseeing departments they know nothing about and have no experience or training in understanding.

Such a change could come about as part of a charter change, he said. But, rather than have a citizens committee examine it, Sneed advocates finding professionals or students from the Stetson law school to look over the charter and update it.

Campbell agreed a full-time city manager would be good for the town and for the employees, but he said he's not sure a charter change is necessary to make such a hire.

And while Campbell agrees the charter needs updating, he said residents need to come together and form a vision for the future before any big charter changes are made.

"We all know the charter's outdated," Campbell said. "It has to be reviewed, but I think the most important thing right now is for Kenneth City to get a common vision and those pieces will come together."

Two seats are up for grabs in Tuesday's election. The two top vote-getters will be elected.

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Kenneth City council candidates disagree on hiring professional manager 03/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 4:13pm]
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