Mayor Robert Reichert has made his department head choices known. A mayor should be able to name his own team because they will be largely responsible for his administration’s success or failure. However, that team must meet the approval of the county commission. It is its last chance to have a say over who runs the various county departments. Unlike the old city charter, there is no appeal mechanism for fired department heads. They serve at the will of the mayor, but the constituent calls will hit the commissioners.
It would have been a surprise if Reichert had kept Richard Powell, director of Public Works. He had been axed by Reichert in 2011 only to bounce back after the City Council stepped in. That decision by council probably cost the taxpayers of the city several thousand dollars in fines because of recurring landfill problems. The only other appointment that could have caused issues was the proposed replacement of Sarah Tenon, the director of the animal shelter, with Van Vandewalker, who was the interim director before the county assumed responsibility for the shelter. The commission dipped and dodged and took that position out of consideration, avoiding what could have been a nasty situation.
Breaking up Public Works into three departments may be a wise move, giving each division focus on particular areas. The landfill will continue to be an issue that, for the general public, is out-of-sight and out-of-mind, but has huge implications. There is no disagreement that the landfill is coming to the end of its time.
The consolidation of the two governments has run smoothly so far. The commission has a number of big issues to tackle -- and in our form of government that may not be pretty -- but is necessary.