Welcome to week #2 of the Cookingham Connection. This week, we hear from Frank Robinson, the town manager of Apple Valley, California. Mr. Robinson came to the Town of Apple Valley in July 2008. Prior to coming to the Town of Apple Valley, Mr. Robinson served for 14 years as President/Township Manager of The Woodlands, Texas, with a population of 88,000. He began his public service career as a law enforcement officer in Denton, Texas, in both the patrol and detective divisions. He later went on to become a captain in the University of North Texas Police Department in Denton, Texas, and then Director of Public Safety for the City of West University Place, Texas. Frank holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Sam Houston State University, (Huntsville, Texas) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of North Texas (Denton, Texas). He is also a Credentialed Manager from the International City/County Managers Association and serves as Chair of the League of California Cities’ Desert Mountain Division City Manager’s Association.
Formal acts of the council become public policy, and you as city manager must always do your best to translate these policies into action. You should do this in a manner to best realize the intent of the council. In some cases, you may not agree with the policy, but it is your duty as city manager to carry out the policy to the best of your ability unless it is illegal or fraudulent.
If you want to make policy, run for office. If you want to be an effective City Manager, influence policy by paving the way for good council decisions with a solid foundation of information.
Regardless of the outcome of last night’s council meeting, our duty as managers is to translate the majority will of the council into action. These leaders were elected to represent the citizens, and we are the conduit to fulfill that plan.
This is easiest when council’s vision aligns with ours. We “seasoned” managers bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our position, and we often have great ideas for solving community issues. When our council is of the same mind, it’s like a managerial high-five! The next step is clear, we implement and bring council’s vision to life.
Sometimes, council steers in a direction different than one we may have chosen. We must remember during these times that council represents those who elected them. They believe they are acting in the best interest of the public, based on what they have heard from their constituents.
It doesn’t matter whether they agree with you or not. After all, councils don’t always agree with each other. However, putting a unanimous policy decision into action is the least complicated because everyone is rowing in the same direction as soon as you leave the dock.
When council is split, policy implementation can be trickier, but good council relations will insure that the whole team presents a unified front behind the majority decision, no matter which way they voted.
In every case – whether or not the council agrees with you or with each other – the manager’s role is full steam ahead. More importantly, it is full steam ahead with a cheerful heart. Once the course is set, a strong manager leads the way with a positive attitude, ready to implement the policy and defend the council’s decision without hesitation.
Harold S. Geneen, former CEO of ITT, explained it well when he said, “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.”
However, before any policy decision is ever made, the successful manager knows how to lay the groundwork through information. As council considers an issue, our primary job is to provide the data they need to make an informed decision. Armed with reliable research, opinions, examples, comparisons and recommendations, the resulting policy is much more likely to be one that you can implement and defend.
The Cookingham Connection columns published by ELGL in partnership with Strategic Government Resources (SGR). SGR exists to help local governments be more successful by Recruiting, Assessing, and Developing Innovative, Collaborative, Authentic Leaders. In other words, they’re totally RADICAL!