We’ve been seeing a lot of contention in southwest Missouri between elected officials and the permanently hired “city administrators” who actually run things. Two come to mind:
- In Willard, the elected mayor is getting impeached because he fired a city administrator hired by an acting mayor when Snider was not available (the latest recriminations are Ahead of Willard impeachment hearing, aldermen continue sparring with mayor.
- Last year, the newly elected mayor of Branson and majority of the board of aldermen removed the existing city administrator (Branson cleans house after election; Board of Aldermen places city administrator on leave) and then fought over the new appointment (Branson’s new City Administrator responds to criticism over her hiring).
I’ve seen similar infighting in some of the smaller communities covered by my weekly arrival of my adopted hometown newspapers.
Why so much fighting over the city administrator?
Because people are starting to realize that these unelected officials can strongly influence policy and are only indirectly responsible to the citizens, and they will outlast changes in the electoral direction of the city/town/county or the will of the voters. And their career paths will take them to larger cities so their loyalty is to their betterment, their blending in with the wills of larger employers (larger cities) and not to the constituencies where they currently work.
Not all of them, but some of them.
Smarter men than we are set a framework for a system of government that limited this sort of thing, but cleverer men than we are have found ways around it.