Letters to the editor (07/11/12)

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New county manager is the right man for job
Editor:
Bruce Swingle, the new county manager, has proposed ending the policy of hiring directors in the county government thru formal contracts, which are subject to the whim of county commissioners.
At the June 27 commission meeting, Mr. Swingle noted that no other county in New Mexico has contracts with anyone other than the county manager.
He wants directors to be regular county employees, like the rest of the staff.  Mr. Swingle mentioned that the current mix of contracted individuals and employees made it difficult to manage the staff effectively.
One commissioner stated that with such a policy there would be “no more commissioner control.” That is entirely the point!
Now, directors and their subordinates have to fear meddling by county commissioners, bypassing the county manager.
By comparison, the Los Lunas Board of Education selects the school superintendent. It is his job to select his staff, within legal requirements and in conjunction with the human resources department.
The school board does not manage the superintendent’s staff. If the board became unhappy with how he runs the schools, they can terminate his contract and change the direction of the school system.
That is a template that should be followed by the county.
The county commission is to be applauded for hiring a highly qualified person like Mr. Swingle from outside the political arena of Valencia County, someone not beholden to local political allegiances.
The county also now has a new, no nonsense professional human resources director who will insure that the county follows proper hiring and firing procedures.
The reputation of the county commission is not all that it could be. It can improve its standing in the community by letting a professional manager, free of nit picking political interference, administer county business and manage the county’s employees.
County commissioners’ role is not to micro manage the staff. Their job is to set policy, approve the budget and oversee the work of the county manager.
If (Swingle) isn’t doing his job, under the terms of his contract commissioners can choose to terminate him.
Abolish the contracts; make everyone who works for the county (other than its manager) an employee and accountable to the professional staff that has been entrusted with the responsibility to run the county’s affairs.  Let the professionals do their job.

James Rickey
Los Lunas