Why the Strong Board/ Township Manager is the Right Format for Oakland Township Government Today – A Treasurer’s Perspective
Oakland Township has operated under the Strong Board/ Township Manager form of governance since approximately 1998. This form of government was chosen by a majority vote of the Board of Trustees. They can change it at any time by voting for a different format.
The Strong Board/Township Manager form of government (often referred to erroneously as ‘strong manager’) means that a professional, qualified, experienced individual is selected and hired by the board of trustees to run the day to day operations of the township. The manager reports to and is accountable to the entire board of 7 trustees. In Oakland Township the manager is an ‘at will’ employee meaning that he or she can be terminated at any time by a vote of the board. This ensures that the priorities of the township manager will always align with a majority of the elected board.
Having the township manager run the administration of the township and answer to the board can be a very effective means of ensuring that all trustees have the information they need and want to cast well-informed votes on policy matters. In terms of policy the board is the decision maker, not the township manager. An experienced township manager can and does provide helpful insight into issues before the board. Our current township manager has over 20 years of municipal management experience. This means he has a long history of dealing directly with taxes, roads, water, sewer, planning, emergency services, personnel, property, buildings, municipal law, boards and commissions and virtually every other major issue facing the board. Even an experienced and diverse board of trustees will not typically include much of this skill set.
Having said all that, it is critical to point out that the manager does not vote. Therefore, he or she can only bring information, analysis and recommendations to the board – the board has the final say. Period. In addition, if at any time, the performance of the township manager fails to meet the expectations of the board for any reason, the board has the option to replace the township manager. This provides assurance to the residents that it is their elected board of trustees running the township.
One of the most important roles of the township manager is acting as a conduit for information. In order for the township to run well, the township manager needs to know what is going on in all areas of the township. He or she is the main point of contact for residents, staff, consultants and board and commission members. Without a township manager, there is no single individual with the formal duty and obligation to perform this task.
When carried out properly, the Strong Board/Township Manager form ensures that all board members are better able to govern well. Individual members can promote new initiatives and ideas because the township manager is charged with pursuing the priorities of the entire board, not just those of any individual.
A google search on this topics shows that this form of government, called ‘Council-Manager” when is it used in a city, is on the rise nationwide. Residents who would like to learn more can easily find many articles discussing this topic. I have listed two below:
Each community must assess and evaluate what form of government is most appropriate for them. I believe that the current Strong Board/ Manager form of government is serving our residents well and I am in favor of continuing it.
submitted by: Jeanne Langlois, Oakland Township Treasurer, May 2016