News and Tribune

July 10, 2013

Clarksville committee recommends keeping town structure, hiring manager

Public comment period open through Aug. 9

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

CLARKSVILLE —

The Clarksville City-Town Evaluation Committee presented its proposed recommendation regarding the structure of the municipality’s government to the public at a meeting on Wednesday.

The verdict? Rather than convert Clarksville to a third-class city, the committee would prefer the town remain a town but have the town council hire a manager to provide full-time leadership for the town’s 160-plus employees. 

Committee member and Clarksville resident Jim Kenney led the discussion, which was held in the council chambers at Clarksville Town Hall. Kenney said the committee based its recommendation on what he called “critical drivers” that would make a city structure preferable to a town structure. 

For instance, if a third-class city of a similar size produced more revenue or had fewer expenses to pay, that would make a city the preferred structure. 

“None of these critical drivers produced any material benefit to be gained by becoming a third-class city,” Kenney said. 

The majority of cities and towns nationwide use a council-plus-manager structure, Kenney said. 

In addition to having Clarksville remain a town and hiring a town manager, the committee recommends the removal of the city-or-town issue from election ballots until 10 percent of Clarksville voters petition the town to put it on the ballot, and to disband the committee until such a time that the city-versus-town issue becomes a ballot issue. 

Town decisions would be based on merit instead of politics with a town manager calling the shots, Kenney said, and added that the hiring process for a town manager would ensure that unqualified candidates are disqualified. The town council would also have the power to remove a town manager who is doing a poor job, he argued. 

“You can’t do that with a mayor,” Kenney said. “They’re elected for four years. You’re stuck.” 

Although the committee has created a preliminary recommendation to submit to the town council, a public-comment period is open now until Aug. 9. Public comments can be submitted via email to info@townofclarksville.com. The committee will meet again in the Executive Conference Room at Clarksville Town Hall on Aug. 10 to review public comments, and then vote to finalize the recommendation, finalize it after modifying it based on public comments or table it for further research. 

Clarksville resident Tom DeArk told the committee members present that they had done an outstanding job with a difficult task, which prompted a round of applause for the committee from those present. 

Former councilman John Krueger echoed DeArk’s assessment, and asked about districtwide versus townwide voting. Kenney responded that voting format was not considered a critical driver when the committee was formulating its recommendation because towns can determine the structure of their elections, unlike cities, which have the structure of their elections mandated by statute.