Elkton plans to wait for a new manager

The Valley Banner

ELKTON — Elkton’s mayor is likely to remain its acting town manager well into next year.

Mayor Wayne Printz, who’s been filling the town manager’s post on a temporary basis since February 2016, said Monday that Town Council has suspended its search for a new town manager.

The plan is to readvertise the position early next year, with hiring a manager perhaps pushed off until the next budget year begins July 1.

“We’re not planning to do anything right at the moment,” Printz said of the search. “We think there’s too many accomplishments we’ve had. The majority of the council said they’re pleased with the direction we’re heading and hold off till next year.”

The post opened when Kevin Whitfield, the former town police chief who’d been chosen as Elkton’s manager, was terminated after less than 14 months on the job. He’d turned in a letter of resignation, with plans to grow a business he started in 2014, but council fired him before he reached the departure date he set.

Printz was appointed by council to act as town manager until a replacement is found. He receives no salary for serving in the position temporarily.

Most council members might support staying the course, but Councilman Joshua Gooden said he thinks the post should be filled now.

“My stance with it is the position has been vacant for almost 19 months,” he said, “and I see that as at least 18 months too many.”

Council Teamwork
While the mayor has the acting manager title, Printz confirmed that fellow council members are overseeing departments that fall under their committee assignments.

“I don’t make all the decisions,” he said. “Council basically tells me what they want and I try to implement their plan.”

With council taking a more hands-on role in town operations, Printz said things are getting done that have languished for years and problems council members weren’t aware of have been uncovered.

Efforts finally are being made to fulfill a promise made in 2004 to extend water and sewer service into newly annexed areas within five years, Printz said, and money is budgeted for a long-discussed project to extend Park Avenue.

The town has no Family Medical Leave Act or child care policies, he said, and the personnel manual must be updated. Some employees have received

Occupational Safety and Health Administration training for the first time in years, if they’ve ever had it. Printz thinks previous town managers should have pushed those projects and kept policies and procedures current. With council driving those actions now, he’s not keen on handing off those responsibilities. “I want to try to resolve some of these issues,” he said, “before we turn things over to another person.”

Printz added that the town is redirecting the town manager’s pay to some of Elkton’s infrastructure needs. If the position is vacant through June, he estimated that about $160,000 will have been saved on salary and benefits and spent on projects the community needs.

He said the panel hasn’t discussed seeking an interim manager with experience, such as a retired municipal adminis-trator, and will count on “the best employees that the town could possibly have” to keep things running properly.

Missed Opportunities?
Gooden countered that he thinks town government can be more accountable to residents if they know who to approach about a problem. A town manager fills that role and is in position to monitor the issue daily. He said Town Council is accomplishing things, but he thinks it’s become a reactionary body focused on running Elkton day-today instead of providing the long-term planning to allow it to operate more effectively.

“It’s almost like you instantly act on [something that arises] and don’t take time to figure out if it would be best if we did it two, three, four years down the road,” said Gooden, “making more financial sense of things.” Leaving the position vacant might be saving money, Gooden allowed, but it also might be costing Elkton money if a manager knew better ways to get things done or where to seek alternate funding sources to save taxpayer dollars. “I do feel not having [a town manager] you’re missing out on some opportunities,” he said, “like grants and some different connections you could make.” Asked how many council members back delaying the hiring, Gooden said he’s not sure because he hasn’t heard each member’s stance. The matter has been dealt with by taking the town’s personnel committee’s recommendation to leave the post vacant.

Hiring a town manager is easy, Printz said. Hiring the right town manager for Elkton — one with the knowledge to run the town effectively while being courteous to and understanding of its residents — is easier said than done, and he thinks some of the town’s recent hires were ill-suited for the role. “I think the assumption many people have is that we can install a manager to head our community and everything is going to get okay,” the mayor said. “I think we’ve proved that may not be the case.”

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