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Thursday
Dec272012

Did Columbia Choose Familiar over Experience?

From WLTX WebsiteTeresa Wilson was offered the City Manager position a few hours ago. From all my dealings with her she is a qualified choice and eager. In hiring Ms. Wilson they choose the up and comer vice more qualified candidates.

Columbia is the largest city in the state and presents many unique challenges. We currently have the EPA at the verge of taking over Water and Sewer due to excessive releases to the river. This was in part due to the consistent deferring of maintenance into feel good Economic Development. This happened under a weak in house choice of City Manager Charles Austin.

Columbia also is debating 2 TIF districts that will represent a 60 million dollar investment. We are swimming with sharks here when we are bargaining with hardball real estate developers like Hughes over taxpayer subsidies.

An outside voice would have been more likely to challenge council over the wisdom of the long term knowledge economy investments. Innovista so far has been a bust. We bet on Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology that has been a flop so far.

For further proof on the long term effects of poor investment look no further than Canalside, a sputtering real estate venture that has squandered prime real estate in the heart of Columbia. If you can't sell Columbia's best asset there are going to be problems.

More problems exist with the Economic Development Corporations. These well meaning public private partnerships have yielded little in results. In the heart of Eau Claire stands the beautiful print building and brand new shopping plaza. Meant to spur NoCo development instead it houses a very nice police station and empty North Main Shopping Plaza.

An outside voice could have brought new perspective as well. New ideas and been able to look at city programs with fresh eyes. This is a chance to improve the efficiency of government. This seems far less likely now.

An outsider could have been a bulldog guarding our taxpayers money. Forcing the departments to justify their expenses with fresh eyes vice same as last year + a little more.

In the military even the hottest running Executive Officer doesn't take over for the Commanding Officer he served under. Changing surroundings and broadening your experience base helps everyone.

I'm cautiously optimistic about the hiring of Teresa Wilson. She has earned a job as a city manager. Going in as a freshman City Manager to the largest city in the state is alot to ask from anyone. I hope the talented up and comer is up to the task.

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