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And While I Am Throwing Bombs…

March 21, 2010

Is it time to rethink the entire notion of electing persons to fill the various Court Clerk offices?

I suppose in a relatively rural and small county with a minimal amount of traffic a bit of political wrangling may not be a big deal. However when a city gets the size of Metro Nashville, these jobs come with six figure salaries and involve managing large departments that are generally underfunded and have a huge workload. These are offices that require professional managers in order to maximize efficiency, not political patronage where one’s decisions about staffing are colored by recent memories of campaign donations and political support, and one wonders if the offices would be run differently if the thought of reelection wasn’t always looming in the background.

Of course, in the best of all possible worlds, voters would be interested in empowered to examine the backgrounds of each of the candidates a make a decision for the candidate that they believe has the best credentials to manage and motivate the unelected staffs of these offices. Instead the best we can hope for in most cases is a war of name recognition, with candidates engaged in road sign wars rather than talking about why they are competent to hold the job for which they are running. And we’re lucky if anyone beyond the most loyal campaign supporters show up at the polls to cast their vote.

Take the Juvenile Court Clerk race. We have more folks than Carter has pills running for that office, but I have yet to hear anyone say why they believe the have the management skills to restore that struggling office to effectiveness, and any sense of a plan as to how they would approach the problems that office faces. What would the candidates for Juvenile Court Clerk do to restore trust (especially the incumbent who seems to have eroded trust along the way)? For that matter why do any of them want the job beyond the six figure salary, and why do they think it would be a fun challenge to assume?

What would it mean to our city if we approached these races less as horse races with winners and losers and more as an executive search process where we are looking for the best talent available to run our important city offices? How would public discourse be enhanced if the local papers were to focus less on process and instead run the full resumes of all declared candidates (not two paragraph biographical outlines, but a complete resume with job history, educational background, etc.) and voters were given the opportunity to decide who who seems to have the most complete qualifications? How would our lives be different if all candidates were required to complete an “application for employment” which included a requirement to state why they want the job and how their skill set will enhance the work of those offices?

Yeah . . . I know . . . it’s another pipedream. But someone has to do it.

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