It takes more than a city manager to manage a city.
That’s one of the primary messages that Ted Swabey is trying to stress as he assumes his new role as the municipality’s top bureaucrat.
Swabey says city managers have gained a reputation as power players, and he says it isn’t entirely warranted. He prefers to view his job as a supporting role, guided by city council and its decisions.
The mayor and council might be the ones who publicly debate decisions and vote, but it’s Swabey and his city hall staff who are coming up with the choices. Without a city manager to clarify those choices, councillors would have a much tougher time comprehending complicated issues and coming to a consensus.
However he wishes to try to portray himself, the truth is Swabey carries a great deal of sway in Nanaimo. It’s fine if he wants to downplay his role, so long as there is still transparency as to how decisions are being made in this city.
It’s appropriate timing, perhaps, to have a new top man at city hall at this time. Certainly there have been criticisms about the way the municipality has handled the Colliery dams issue and confusion about who has been making the decisions. It’s also a time when the City of Nanaimo is assessing its governance and implementing a new budgeting model. The choose-your-own-adventure budget ledger will be filled out by council members, an indication that the new city manager really does want to leave the big decisions for elected officials and stay on the sidelines himself.
Who’s managing the city? Who’s supporting who? Who’s deciding what? Of course these are important questions. But what matters even more is that the very best decisions are being made for Nanaimo.