Cape Coral's city council is expected to embark Monday on a task of crucial importance: The newly elected board will lay the groundwork for the hiring of a new city manager.
The task will not only be difficult, it will be untried - no member of council, sitting or incoming, has taken part in the process before.
Already, there is a range of opinion - hire in-house, hire local, go national and do a search.
All of these options are certainly viable and there is no reason why each should not be weighed by the elected board.
This should be done, though, with the understanding going in that public administration is a specific profession with a specific skill set and often, a specific degree or credentialing.
Consider: Would anyone ask a dermatologist to set a broken leg, promote a police captain to fire chief, or ask a framer to plumb a new house?
Probably not, even if the person was right next door and willing to do the work.
Task-specific knowledge, expertise and experience is critical to any type of skilled or professional labor and the administrative specialty of city or county management is no exception.
Fortunately, city council does not need to enter into this process cold - nor does the board have to allocate any money to get some practical advice.
The Florida City and County Management Association offers local governments in similar situations - or worse ones -some help for free.
In a program similar to SCORE - which pairs retired business professionals with new entrepreneurs who might have a question or two - the FCCMA offers the "Range Riders," retired managers with years of experience in public management. According to program officials, Range Riders are not consultants but counselors and advisors who can come in, meet with elected boards, answer questions, and help draft qualification parameters - all at no cost.
Range Riders also can do more, up to and including serving on screening committees and rendering hiring advice, but it's premature to think that far ahead.
Getting someone in to get the process jump-started is not.
We suggest a couple of things:
Commit to hiring a professional city manager with hands-on experience in that select field.
And get some help on how to go about it.
It's the prudent course of action.
- Breeze editorial