An open Letter to Two Finalists for the position of York County Manager:
Congratulations to one of you.
To the man who actually gets the job, my condolences.
I noted in news coverage that York County Council limited its final choice to the two candidates with county government experience. In other counties, perhaps that approach would make sense. For this job, you would be better prepared if you had spent a couple of years teaching kindergarten or perhaps working as an orderly in psych unit.
If either of you decides to take the top administrative position in York County, you would be wise to insist on a handsome severance package. Two of the last three county managers reportedly walked out the door with a year’s salary tucked in their pocket.
The third, arguably the best manager this county ever employed, didn’t benefit from a golden parachute but only because he didn’t ask for one when hired. In addition to being an honorable man who expected nothing more than the opportunity to give citizens good service, he was confident that he could always land a better job.
He was right.
Don’t get me wrong. Individually, some of your future bosses are good chaps. As a body, however, our county council is leaderless, spineless, vindictive and dumb as a box of bricks.
If you laid every member of council end to end, they couldn’t reach a conclusion.
Don’t believe me?
Check out how long council has wrestled over regulations to set development standards, regulate emergency medical services, support community organizations, provide public recreation or prevent dog abuse.
County staffers – your future employees – will spend months, if not years, fashioning proposed rules based on their study of what other counties have done, talking to affected individuals and, of course, following the manager’s direction in implementing council policy.
That’s standard procedure for a strong manager system, right?
In York County, SOP usually falls apart at the 11th hour, when one or more council members proclaim that the proposed regulations threaten someone’s basic “civil liberties.”
(In South Carolina this threat can be summed up in a simple anthem: “You can’t tell me what to do!”)
And if the complaining citizen happens to own half a dozen pit bulls or is a developer who also serves as a state legislator, you can be pretty certain that the council will be deadlocked on the issue until after you retire.
Only, don’t count on retiring from York County. Loyalty to employees is not a trait associated with this group.
If you want to learn how our elected officials reward years of dedicated public service, call some of the folks who formerly worked at the Museum of York County and ask them how they lost their jobs in a petty political vendetta.
Or, better yet, review minutes or tapes of past council meetings. In addition to witnessing how council members chastise staff for not being bidness-friendly enough, you can catch one of your future bosses boasting how he ran off your three most recent predecessors.
(That may have been the same meeting at which he expressed hope that someone would shoot unspecified county staffers.)
And if public humiliation of your staff isn’t a sufficient deterrent, you may want to ask council members, especially the chairman, if they understand the concept of chain of command.
By state law, authority to hire, fire and supervise county employees rests with the county manager. Good luck with that. Council interference is a tradition in York County.
Don’t expect swift action on pressing capital needs, even though the county’s law enforcement and judicial complex, and main library are bursting at the seams, irreplaceable records have been ruined by flooding and our agricultural community has been without a county fairgrounds for seven years.
Although York County has been one of the fastest-growing counties in South Carolina for years, council members would rather cut staff and see county services collapse before being accused of raising taxes. They adhere to the Tea Party concept of government: Get what you don’t pay for.
In conclusion, there are worse jobs.
I just can’t think of one right now.
Email former Herald Editor Terry Plumb at email@example.com.