Marco Island’s city manager, Jim Riviere, was subjected to his third evaluation in nine months at a recent City Council meeting. Each of us on the council used a different approach, with different criteria, and the result was a lot of input for the city manager but perhaps not a cohesive message.
At the end of the session, a number of citizens called us out, quite properly, and demanded a substantive process, and further requested that we ensure written annual evaluations of all city employees, including standard position descriptions against which to measure their performance. I have committed to help the city staff develop these processes, in part because of my background in human resources management, and at the proper time the City staff will present its approach to the City Council and to the citizens for input.
I provided the city manager a written evaluation, even though we new councilors have only been working with him since November, an unusually brief time for a review. (A premature evaluation is fundamentally unfair to the recipient, but welcome to politics I suppose.) The most important aspect of performance evaluation is to ask, “What are the results?” This can be answered using three standards: (1) gets the job done, (2) listens and learns, and (3) develops the organization. Here’s how I rated the City Manager on each of these.
(1) Gets the job done. On this measure, the city Mmanager deserves high marks. If we look at the spending he controls, the general fund, Jim Riviere is the first city manager in Marco Island history to have decreased spending. Here’s the record:
Bill Moss (1997-2007) spending increased from $4.6 million to $14.1 million, or 11.9 percent annually. (I excluded increases caused by absorbing departments, such as Fire Rescue.) Tony Shoemaker was on the job only four months, so I won’t include his record. Steve Thompson (May ’08 to April ’10) spending up $2.5 million, or 8.5 percent annually. Jim Riviere spending down about $800,000 through fiscal year 2012.
The city manager holds his departments to high standards. Under his leadership, there have been no spending surprises. He consistently comes in under budget. He has completed contract negotiations with the Fire Rescue union. The City’s bond rating has been increased, which will help Marco Island as we refinance our debt.
(2) Listens and learns. On this measure, the city manager is making solid progress, but it’s not his strong suit. He spends a tremendous amount of time listening to councilors. He has put all city board and committee meetings on the TV system, which also contains a running bulletin board of activities and notices. He publishes a weekly “Roundup” newsletter to keep the City Council informed of events, etc. He reaches out to other governments and agencies to share ideas and fight for our fair share of County and district revenues. And, really, he lets the City Council, and the chair of the City Council as appropriate, have center stage. He does not try to act as Mayor.
(3) Develops the organization. On this measure, the city manager has performed well, but continued improvement is needed. He has reorganized the City staff to reduce redundancies. He has upgraded many departments, most recently the Finance Department, by bringing in professional staff. He has brought in a respected Police Chief to continue the development of a professional, committed, mission-oriented Police Department. His overall approach is to encourage strong department heads, so that Marco Island is always reaching for the best talent.
Suggestions for next year. No review is complete without setting objectives for the future. I am only one of seven City Councilors, and at some point we on City Council will meet to agree on the City Manager’s objectives, but here is my list:
1. Take a tougher stand with department heads in priority-setting and Council-response. This is a reflection of the City Manager’s desire to have strong department heads sometimes they are too strong, pushing their own agendas or unresponsive to citizens’ needs, which can also be seen in their interaction with our City Council appointed boards and committees.
2. Push for and implement a robust financial software solution for management information. This has been approved by City Council in the past, but it will take the City Manager’s leadership to make it a reality (and fit it into next year’s budget). With the new Finance Director on board, it is needed now more than ever. We are controlling our finances with an antiquated and disjointed system. Without cohesive, real-time financial information, the job of maintaining financial control is even more difficult.
3. More aggressively pursue a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, granted by the County, so that Marco Island can consider providing even better ambulance and rescue-related services to the citizens. The Fire Rescue Chief is working hard on this, but all of us will need to get behind it.
I’m hopeful that when we review the City Manager a year or so from now, he will have produced another year of solid progress, fiscal responsibility and more open communication.