2015-12-23 / Opinion

All We Want for Christmas


As December marches headlong through the Christmas holidays toward 2016, the city of Newport prepares to mark its second consecutive New Year without a permanent city manager.

To paraphrase the age-old children’s holiday song, all we want for Christmas is a new city manager. But that won’t happen.

The best-case scenario for having a new manager in place at City Hall now seems to be late February. That would make 20 months since Newport has had a permanent city manager in place.

And that’s best case.

Although the current search process attracted 73 manager hopefuls by the Nov. 17 deadline—one from as far away as British Columbia on Canada’s West Coast and four others from the West Coast of the United States—recent history tells us that there is no guarantee the next permanent city manager’s name is on that list.

After all, this is round two of this search process. The first round saw the council reject all of the 50 or so manager hopefuls recommended by Connecticut-based Randi Frank Consulting, LLC.

So now the city is searching for the new manager on its own. Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking this holiday season without much happening, at least publicly. The candidate screening committee, which operates without public scrutiny because of applicant privacy concerns, was said to be working over the holidays.

However, the City Council agreed to delay the start of formal interviews until after the first of the year. Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano said it was “not fair” to applicants or the council to proceed during the holidays.

While we appreciate that sentiment, we also feel a certain amount of frustration that the council chose to slam the brakes on the process after it had finally gained some momentum.

But what’s done is done. Early in the new year, we hope that a refreshed council will return to the endeavor of weighing in on the targeted names with renewed vigor. Twenty months, or whatever the final manager search time frame turns out to be, is a long time for a city to be without its day-to-day leader.

Don’t misunderstand. As interim City Manager, Joseph J. Nicholson has really stepped up. By all accounts, Nicholson, who served for many years as Newport’s city solicitor, seems to have done commendable work since assuming the helm following former City Manager Jane Howington’s June, 2014 resignation.

Nicholson, who is also a practicing attorney, had support within the City Council to take the manager’s post permanently but declined to seek the position.

Regardless, a city of Newport’s stature needs a permanent city manager whose strong personality, political acumen and managerial skills can quickly come to personify all that is laudable about our municipality. Mindful of that, we wait with anticipation for Newport’s city manager search committee to resume during the first week of January and to result, finally, with the selection of a new manager.

Merry Christmas to all!

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