As I sit here today and look out upon the storm that has recently lashed our shores with some significant rain and wind, I can’t help but think about how our little community has had to weather a storm of its own the last couple of weeks. Of course I refer to the recent unfortunate events surrounding our search for a new Captain of our own ship within city hall. Let me make this perfectly clear, blame does us no good in this situation, in fact there may be a silver lining in these clouds, as two additional councilors have had the courage to look beyond politics and allegiances to roll up their sleeves and take on the weighty role of legislating, rather than rubber stamping.
That “ship” may now be seeing a threat from another unfortunate misstep. This one may have had some potential honorable intent at the outset, but has morphed into something other than that with the now released Staff Organizational Survey. This document was ill conceived and authorized at a time when there was no strong hand guiding the staff and employees within the city, and the contracting for such a document should have been delayed.
We owe it to whomever we might choose to be our next CEO of our city to at least have time to settle into his or her job, while providing them the adequate opportunity to obtain a lay of the land and do some preliminary evaluation of the department heads and their challenges, before having a document such as this be created, become public and float through the community with either intended or unintended consequences. The person we choose may have other ideas of how to word such a tool, so it could not be not used in a negative way, but provide the necessary guidance in building an even stronger organization.
Some of the juvenile, slanderous and poisonous remarks (made anonymously) within the survey have their own separate personal agendas and have no place in any type of professional evaluation of our fine men and women who serve this community on a day to day basis, within all departments of city government.
There are issues that need to be addressed and should be done so in a professional and structured manner. Some will require hard decisions by elected officials as they deal with issues such as staffing, compensation and capital improvements.
The attitude of some councilors and how they treat the employees came under particular criticism as part of this survey. This is something that must be immediately addressed and without delay. Council’s role is an important one in setting the tone of the environment which our employees work within, and treating them with disrespect or in a threatening manner, whether in public or in private conversations is ill warranted or in some cases illegal.
We live in a very competitive environment in regards to retention of employees. Compensation is one of those issues which we and other municipalities and organizations are always dealing with. Marco is especially vulnerable due to the high cost of housing, which precludes many from living where they work, therefore aggravating the issue and is reflective in some of the many responses on the survey. Retention of qualified and professional staff at all levels within the city’s family of employees is a real issue and should be dealt with in an adult fashion.
To use this survey to go after any department or department head would be counterproductive to dealing with making this an even better community. The survey itself show 80% of respondents liked their jobs and 94% felt their work was important. However, some responding to the questions used it as an excuse to go after present or former coworkers, including some department heads.
Now having said all this, is there room for improvement within the structure of how we run our city; of course there is and it makes the goal of finding a qualified and proven professional all that more important as we move forward. Haste may be an enemy of that goal and we should take whatever steps are necessary to insure we get the job done this time in an adult fashion with the best results for our residents and employees; they deserve no less than the best.
Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at Stef@coastalbreezenews.com