The Oak Creek Town Board deserves praise for admitting it needs help. The town has gone too long without a full-time administrator and has suffered because of it. Grants have not been pursued; time has been wasted at Town Board meetings; long-range planning has not been done; financial documents have fallen into disarray.
A quality town manager will more than pay for his or her salary, and we don't mean that in any abstract sense. Rather, the return will be in concrete terms because the town manager will be able to go after thousands and thousands of dollars available in grants. Too often, the town fails to pursue that kind of outside funding because of a lack of information, a lack of expertise and a lack of time.
Because of the real financial return the town can expect from its manager, who also will be the town treasurer, the board should not be too tight with the compensation it plans to offer. The clichhat you get what you pay for applies here.
Hiring a town manager shouldn't be seen as an expenditure by the town, but as an investment in the town. A proper selection process should be used to ensure that a quality candidate is selected. Once such a person is hired, he or she will provide the stability and continuity that is now lacking in the governance of the town.
Oak Creek, like other towns in the county, struggles to find enough people to fill its Town Board. The dedicated volunteers who hold the seats now deserve to have a full-time manager working for them. It's hard enough for them to give their time to the town and that difficulty is only compounded by the lack of a town manager.
For example, complaints from Oak Creek residents are now, for the most part, taken directly to the Town Board, which has difficulty quickly responding if it can at all. A town manager would change that. He or she could listen to the concerns of residents the day they come up and react immediately, or direct another town employee to react.
Another obvious benefit of a town manager would be that person's ability to provide day-to-day leadership that would undoubtedly increase employee satisfaction and productivity.
The current Town Board has done well to recognize, officially, the need for a town manager. Oak Creek has grown to the point where such an administrator is needed. A story in the Invest section of this week's issue describes Oak Creek's real estate market as robust, meaning more people are moving there. Growth is inevitable and means increasing pressure on the town to provide services.
A town manager is a worthwhile investment for Oak Creek and one that should be done right.