Mountain View’s Charter, first adopted in 1972, places the Mayor in a dual role: The Mayor is both the head of the Council and the Town Manager.
This, like so much else about Mountain View, is highly unusual. Many other towns go out of their way to prevent elected officials from holding the position of town manager.
Municipal governments must have checks and balances in order to function effectively. Elected officials and professional administrators serve distinctly different roles and have different skills. A mayor and a town administrator actually have two different professional associations.
A mayor works with the council whereas usually a town manager reports to the council.
In many towns, the charter specifies the town manager must be chosen based on management experience and qualifications. Typically, mayors are elected for their ability to inspire and unite people.
I relish my new role as Mountain View’s mayor, including my new responsibilities as the Town Manager. However, my hope is that I will be able to address this conflict in our charter, and in so doing, usher in new expectations of professionalism and a stronger, more secure and predictable future for Mountain View.
My plan is to begin to engage residents around the problems our charter creates for us, as a town. The unusual dual role of the mayor, although the most serious issue, is not the only issue.
Other problems include a lack of long-term planning tools, no conflict-of-interest provisions, and non-inclusive language.
Especially in a town of our size, we must choose wisely when we decide where to put resources.
As much as I love our town, my experience is that we spend more time putting out fires and confronting problems rather than planning and implementing a long-term vision.
If Mountain View is to succeed in retaining our charm and continuing to foster our close-knit community in the face of today’s world, we must rise to the challenge by being thoughtful, strategic and proactive. We must prioritize long-term considerations.
As the Charter is our town’s foundation, discussing and addressing its unusual elements is our most impactful first step.
I hope that Mountain View residents will welcome discussion about long-term planning and especially about the Charter.
In the reality of municipal governing, no problems can be solved with magic wands. But there is a secret sauce in any successful Home Rule town. It involves three things: a well-written charter with clear responsibilities and accountabilities spelled out, an engaged public, and determined, transparent leaders. I can give you one of these things, and I hope you will all join me in creating the remaining two.
Contact Mountain View mayor Emilie Mitcham at EMitcham@tomv.org.