How to begin charting new court for Newport City Manager, and monitoring how the city spends its money
Perhaps taking heed at City Manager Jim Voetberg’s recent reference to dreading coming into work some days not knowing which city councilor was going to give him heat or grief about some city issue, the council Monday took on some of the responsibility for those sometimes tense and testy moments.
Taking the lead in those discussions during Monday’s city council workshop, newly elected City Councilor Ralph Busby, a career federal management employee, mostly in the Federal Aviation Administration, framed the issue by saying “How can you know how to evaluate an employee if your evaluation tools aren’t specific enough?”
Busby said effective evaluation procedures and written forms relate to data – measurable increments of prescribed performance, subject area by subject area. Busby said any policy-making body like a city council must communicate to the city manager, exactly what the council’s expectations are and then agree to creative methods and pathways the city manager might pursue to achieve them. With specific goals and objectives, coupled with creative tactics, the council then can enjoy tabulating measurable results that can be scaled and applied to his or her report card.
Busby said there are too many “evaluation forms” that omit measurable results, relying instead on “gut level” feelings about how someone is doing their job. General comments about how a reviewer “feels” about what direction a city is taking and the progress being is all right and good, but it’s not the heart of the evaluation mission. “Data, data, data is the key,” Busby said.
Busby’s fellow councilors appeared very supportive of this new perspective on employee evaluations. Councilor David Allen said it seems to enhance the ability to do a more proper evaluation and to create more value of what the city does in the eyes of Newport residents. “It gives the council and the city manager more information to more go on.” Councilor Sawyer agreed, adding that the evaluation criteria and specific data associated with it are the keys. Councilor Mark Saelens added that if an evaluation doesn’t have effective, corrective action, that’s a problem. “You’ve got to give the employee a chance to know the way forward and an opportunity to succeed using real goals,” he said.
Councilor Dick Beemer reminded the council that with next fiscal year’s budget staring them square in the face, it’ll likely take six months to get such an evaluation process up and running – if it’s to be realistic, fair and measurable.