Dayton finally makes a smart move on City Manager

With the hiring of the “acting city manager” Rashad Young, The Dayton City Commission took a confident step in the right direction. Finally, an admission that we might not be as broken internally as we seem to play in the public eye.

Going outside for a top exec is an admission that your own people don’t have the skills- it also slows things down with a tough learning curve- since we Daytonian’s have an intricate system of back room powerbrokers that run a maze that’s almost impossible for a newby to navigate.

The Dayton Daily News says:

Among his first tasks will be reorganization of some city positions and filling key posts that are vacant, including his former assistant city manager job and that of economic development director.

He also plans to meet with city staff over the next 30 days to outline his priorities and expectations.

Although I am confident that Mr. Young can get the job done (even though he works for a City Commission that has a hard time defining a vision, or communicating well) I am going to make a few suggestions:

  • Consider being the first city to shut down your internal Economic Development Department and put it into the hands of a regional group like the Dayton Development Coalition or the County. Lets be leaders in the march toward smart growth and regional development strategies. Although it may seem like we are the community least able to jettison this little fiefdom, in order to gain greater power, you often have to give up power first.
  • The city has a “branding” assignment out for bid right now. If you are here for the long haul, concentrate first on defining your focus and goals and then work on a brand to fit the strategy. Branding isn’t just a new logo and tagline: when done right it’s a new ethos to lead the way.
  • Don’t look desperate for development. The proposed development on the Parkside location, Deeds Point and the area North of Baseball (NOB) could be something as cool as Baltimores North Shore or The Greene- or it could be a Super Walmart and some generic factory built homes. Make sure we don’t just take what comes along and give away the store. In the past we’ve made some extreme “donations” instead of real investments.
  • Have fun. One thing this city has missed is a City Manager who can exude confidence and be a populist leader. We don’t need a workaholic, meeting bound administrator- we need a head cheerleader, who is going to lead us out of our self-imposed stupor back to our rightful place as a great place to live, work and escape the insanity of places like NYC, LA, Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix etc- where high rents, insane traffic, lack of water etc. make living tough. Look to your customers- the residents, and see how you can make living in Dayton easy, fun and a great value. It will help you solve the rest of the problems. Build on our strengths first, they worry about our deficits. The low hanging fruit makes for easy picking- get it to market quickly, then reinvest that money in the easy to finish projects- like the Oregon District or the Brown/Stewart Genesis project that already have momentum.

Best of luck, but make things happen. If you blow something, you can blame it on your youth. Get a few things right, and you will be a star. Just don’t use us as a stepping stone- instead, make this your Sistine Chapel. We’ve put our confidence in you. Now, in the immortal words of Nike: Just do it.

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3 Responses

  1. John Ise November 29, 2006 / 10:39 am
    In addition, Mr. Young could look at the approach Youngstown has taken to population lost. Visit Governing Magazine’s take on “Smart Decline” (as opposed to Smart Growth).
    http://www.governing.com/articles/11cities.htm

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  2. Greg Hunter November 30, 2006 / 11:34 am
    John,

    Thanks for the reference and it was interesting to see “smart decline” put to the test. It seems to be a positive; however, I wonder if Dayton is down enough or smart enough to make the decision to pursue this type of approach?

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