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Archive for August, 2013

Rewind: City Management is Not For the Faint of Heart

First posted on February 8th, 2011.

Written by
Rickey Hayes
Retail Attractions, LLC

This month’s blog post is a re-run of a blog I wrote in February of 2011. Current time is middle of August, 2013, but some things never change. In a discussion with a city manager in a small Oklahoma town, he informed me there are currently over twenty communities in our state without a city manager. It is a tough job. City managers have to be special people because sometimes being good at what you do is what gets you fired. Go figure. No matter what credentials your city manager has if he is not rooted in reality, especially in terms of retail recruitment, your town is probably suffering. In our fair state, new retail is the only thing that produces additional general fund revenue. Retail Attractions can help. Hope you enjoy the re-run, it’s still just as applicable as it was when it was first published.

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is working with city managers around the country. Being a city manager may be one of the toughest jobs in the world because effective city managers must successfully wear a variety of hats plus enjoy working extremely long hours. City managers must understand accounting, psychiatry, law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, human resources, water and sewer treatment, storm water retention and detention, residential and commercial real estate, and organizational management. City managers need to be adept at managing complex situations, financing structures and economics. Probably the hardest part of the job, at least for me, is that city managers must attend a lot of meetings. Everybody knows that when you have to attend a lot of meetings it’s sometimes hard to get any (real) work done!

If that wasn’t enough, the effective city manager must be proficient in politics. In most communities we work with, the type of city government is the “council / manager” form of government. That means that although the city manager is the person in charge of the day to day operations of the city, he or she has at least five and sometimes as many as nine or more bosses. Those bosses are elected officials who may not know the ins and outs of actually running a city, but who are elected by the stakeholders to represent them in city government. The city manager serves at the pleasure of the council, and through their representation, at the pleasure of the citizens of the community.

Managing a city is not a job for the faint of heart. Along with the enormous responsibilities we have already discussed, the city manager must continually be growing the local economy to feed the ever widening chasm of revenue needs of his community. Federal and state mandates have to be addressed. Streets need repair and maintenance. Rising crime rates may demand more police officers to keep the city safe. As the population grows and new residential areas come online, new fire stations and firefighters are needed.
To be effective, a city manager and council must share a clear vision of what the community could become if every part of community were pulling in the same direction. Then he or she must be able to share that vision with the community and nurture it in the heart of every citizen. A city manager has to be a leader and a motivator. Improving the quality of life for one individual is not that hard, but try improving the quality of life for a whole community.

We believe that cities can change their future in positive and rewarding ways that meet the visions they have for their communities. Well-planned retail development improves the overall quality of life by adding goods, services, additional property and sales tax revenues to a community… allowing even more of the vision to become reality for communities across the country.

Rickey Hayes is the principal of Retail Attractions, LLC, a firm dedicated to helping cities and developers successfully find retail sites, close deals and improve the quality of life for our client cities.