There are a number of different forms of city government, even around the Tampa Bay area. In some cities, the mayor runs the city on a day to day basis. In some cities, individual council members are responsible for supervising specific departments. These arrangements can easily result in the politicization of city functions. When council members feud and the one that supervises public works and the one that supervises the police get into a tiff, things can get ugly fast.
Fortunately for us, the City of New Port Richey has a city manager form of government.
In New Port Richey, the city council hires a city manager who is responsible for the day to day operations of the city. The city manager is the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the city. In fact, the city’s charter specifically PROHIBITS the mayor and individual council members from interfering with day to day city operations. This naturally leads to the question: What exactly are the responsibilities of the mayor and city council?
In our form of government, the mayor is the ceremonial head of the city. As mayor, I get invited to lots of ribbon cuttings and issue proclamations for various events, i.e. recognizing a citizen earning their Eagle Scout rank or turning 100 years old. This is the “fun stuff”. The city manager gets to deal with the “not so fun stuff” such as employee discipline issues.
The mayor also officiates at the city council meetings. The city council is a legislative body, or Board of Directors, that sets overall direction for the city as well as the specific policies that the city manager and her staff are responsible for implementing. The mayor is one vote of five when it comes to setting those policies. No single council member can demand policy changes without the agreement of at least two other members. We have a “communications” time just before the end of each council meeting where council members can share concerns they have with the other members and suggest things we need to place on a future agenda for further discussion.
During my tenure as mayor, the city council has set the city on a path toward becoming THE place to live and work in West Pasco. Ordinances addressing blight and crime, along with spending decisions to fix up the Hacienda, recreate Sims Park as a family friendly destination, and creating various business and residential grant programs to fill our storefronts and spruce up our neighborhoods are examples of what the city has been doing recently. These are all pieces of the overall puzzle that we have had to tackle to make our vision of a better New Port Richey a reality.
The city council is responsible for setting city taxes and other charges as well as approving a city budget. It is a bit of a balancing act to work toward lower tax rates while maintaining city services. There is simply not enough money available to do everything. We have to decide what things are essential and what would be nice.
Sometimes, we can address the “nice to have” projects by looking for outside sources of funds to complete them. Continuing to fix up the Hacienda is a high priority, but is not as essential as fire and police protection. As a result, we’ve had to get creative. We have directed the city manager and staff to look at a number of grant opportunities that are available to help cover the cost of stabilizing the structure and restoring it to a condition that would allow it to be opened for business. We’ve been successful so far and the city continues to apply for additional grant funding to make a fully restored Hacienda a reality.
Other projects, such as a proposed parking garage downtown, may ultimately require us to borrow money and pay it back over time.
The city council also conducts certain hearings under a quasi-judicial setting. These include things such as zoning and land use changes as well as actions to condemn derelict buildings that have been determined to meet the definition of “blighted”.
When someone calls to complain about some specific situation, I generally have to tell them to call our city manager, Mrs. Debbie Manns, and give them her phone number. It is not that I am unsympathetic. My fellow council members and I are PROHIBITED from intervening in day to day issues.
Where I and the rest of the council CAN help is when there is a policy that needs to be changed. An example of this is approving changes in our city ordinances so that residents can drive around town with golf carts. Another example is a proposed noise ordinance that is designed to address complaints about loud noise at all hours of the day and night.
I hope the informationi above sheds some light on how things get done in New Port Richey. We combine professional leadership of a city manager with the citizen input of an elected city council.
This is an exciting time for New Port Richey and I am honored to serve as your mayor.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor.