Thursday, January 8, 2009

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial supports city reorganization of chain of command

Let's get organized
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Northwest Edition
Posted on Thursday, January 8, 2009
ON HIS first day in office, Lioneld Jordan, the new mayor of Fayetteville, started making changes. He proposed adding a new position in city government-a chief of staff to oversee many of the departments that have been directly managed by the mayor in the past.

Under the proposed reorganization, the police and fire departments and the city library would still report directly to the mayor. All the other departments would report to him through the new chief of staff. It's called a chain of command, and it's been known to come in handy in large organizations on which the public depends.

The reorganization offers the potential for more effective management of the many city departments. Having a trusted lieutenant taking care of the problems that arise in much of the day-to-day operation of the city should give the new mayor more time to devote to the larger challenges. A big one right now: How get an economic development plan in place. Mayor Jordan's proposal for a chief of staff is just another indication that he's thinking in broad terms. As befits the leader of any organization. Even before he was sworn in, Lioneld Jordan was already showing leadership. For example, he named a transition team, which has been holding meetings aimed at developing a list of priorities for the new administration.

The transition team has been headed by Don Marr, the former alderman who might wind up filling the job of chief of staff. He'd be a natural candidate for it.

The new mayor is applying his systematic approach elsewhere, too. He's evaluating the city staff to decide if any changes need to be made. Gary Dumas, the director of operations for former mayor Dan Coody, has already been dismissed. And Mayor Jordan will have to choose a new police chief. The former chief, Greg Tabor, stepped down to the job of deputy chief in the final days of the Coody administration. Greg Tabor had an agreement with then-Mayor Coody to return to the ranks to protect his retirement if a new administration took office.

While he's getting things organized, Mayor Jordan will have another problem to confront. Just after being sworn in, he got the unpleasant job of announcing that a couple of pension funds are running short of money. The funds pay benefits to 115 fire and police retirees or their beneficiaries. The board members of the funds-including the mayor-soon will have to decide whether to find more revenue or cut benefits. Getting those funds straightened out will require even more of the careful analysis Lioneld Jordan has been demonstrating.

It's going to take a while for the new administration to come to grips with everything that's happening right now. Happily, it looks like the new administration is up to the job.

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