Friday, October 23, 2009
How our new town administrator could make a difference
Welcome to Tim Goddard, Carlisle’s new Town Administrator. He comes here amidst much goodwill and high expectations.
As he begins his tenure with a clean slate in this critical position, there are many areas in which he could make a significant contribution to our town if he is willing to take on a leadership role. Below are some suggestions to improve his chances for a productive and rewarding administration. At the outset, hopefully he’ll make a real effort to visit with as many different constituencies as possible, including town boards and community organizations.
The Town Administrator’s (TA) most visible interface will be with the Board of Selectmen (BOS), where he could make an immediate impact by helping to address important town issues, such as affordable housing. Hopefully, he will also urge the selectmen to be more transparent by discouraging executive sessions except when absolutely essential. He should also demonstrate independence in recognizing that his job encompasses much more than just implementing BOS decisions.
A bigger concern, though, relates to his interaction with two other, important town constituencies - the Town Hall staff and the rest of us in Carlisle. It is extremely important that our new TA create an atmosphere at Town Hall that will empower and reenergize our professional staff to work cohesively, creatively and productively. During his interview, he cited team building as one of his strengths. Given the various challenges our town faces, we need all hands on deck and working well together.
Obviously, our new TA must first earn the trust of the Town Hall staff. Being a good listener and engaging in frequent, impartial communication will go a long way to earning that credibility. Only then can he encourage and expect staff members to take initiatives in identifying creative, synergistic (e.g., cross-training) solutions to many of our town’s challenges. He could also assist the staff by making better use of technology to improve communication, productivity and employee satisfaction.
And, how about the rest of us in Carlisle? Mr. Goddard has an excellent opportunity to reenergize and mobilize Carlisle’s volunteers. Given that severe budget constraints preclude hiring additional staff, our town is now relying even more heavily on citizen volunteers to assume many essential roles, beginning with our various town boards and community organizations. As the town seeks to broaden its volunteer base, our TA could engender more citizen interest in town affairs by conveying a sense of enthusiasm for our town and its many possibilities, demonstrating a caring attitude, providing timely follow-up and soliciting suggestions and feedback.
The new TA should foster and facilitate community dialogue whenever possible. Among many opportunities, he could utilize the town’s website to communicate frequently with townspeople about important issues. Also, why not schedule periodic “Chats with Tim” to allow townspeople a chance to meet directly with him?
Tim Goddard is becoming Carlisle’s Town Administrator at a critical juncture. While he could serve as a passive caretaker, hopefully he will choose the more challenging path by becoming a transformative leader in our town. To do so, though, he will need to invest meaningful time and effort in order to earn the trust of and mobilize the Town Hall staff, current volunteers and other Carlisle residents. In the meantime, we wish Tim Goddard a strong start and every success as our new Town Administrator.
The Mosquito welcomes Jay Luby as an editorial writer. Luby has served on the board of Carlisle Communications, Inc. and is currently CCI president.
Recently on a walk through the woods, I happened upon a young couple of undetermined relationship who were coming down the path the other way. Both were engrossed in nothing in particular as near as I could tell until we passed each other. Now, this was a particularly beautiful late afternoon. The frogs were in a state of high dudgeon, the birds were trying to keep up. The sun was headed toward the horizon and Mother Nature was in her glory. In short, it was an absolutely glorious late afternoon to be afoot in the woods. In fact, it was a remarkably glorious late afternoon that might rival any such afternoon now or ever.
But to no avail. The approaching couple were both wearing the jewelry of their generation – earbuds – and were utterly engrossed in some otherworldly distraction which kept them, I presume, from appreciating the riotous beauty through which we strolled. What a shame, I thought. These two are really missing something wonderful, something to remember, to share and cherish or to recollect on some future day that was less marvelous. We passed one another along the path, I nodded a greeting but they were oblivious. How sad, thought I. Not for myself, mind you, but for all of the beauty that surrounded them and called for their attention in rapturous tones as the leaves sighed, the sun winked through the overhanging foliage. If this was not a romantic moment that they were missing, then what kind of fool am I?
Apparently Timothy Leary was a man before his time. Had he waited a generation, he might have been less controversial. But lots of people today have gotten the message and have tuned out in ways he never imagined. A brief and unscientific survey of lunch-hour pedestrians recently revealed that more than half were blissfully(?) unaware of their larger surroundings because they were tuned in (if not turned on). Which gets me to my question: why are we saving open space if only for a walk with the likes of Madonna and the Material Girl? Newbury Street might be a better venue if what we want today is really not a walk in the woods but meander through the mall. How sad. But what I see on our new pedestrian pathways is not too different. I worry that we are becoming a generation of people who may see only to navigate (but do not look), who get from point A to point B but do not know how they got there or what passing curiosity was missed along the way. What has happened to the joys of happenstance and serendipity?
It seems to me that a walk in the woods is about relationships (metaphorically and otherwise). Alertness and understanding of the small vagaries along the path are enlightening and can be fodder or metaphor for resolving life’s thornier issues. The failure to take note of the subtleties on life’s journey can become stumbling stones that have more than pedal significance and future walks could be very lonely were it not for earbuds; or am I missing something?
© 2009 The