Trust gut and just pick the best people


When a new mayor takes office, he makes the most important decisions of his term — the ones that set the tone for his administration. I’m talking about appointments; staffing; choosing the administrators for the administration.

The rumors about how Mayor-elect Mike Collins is going to staff his administration are flying fast and furious now, so it’s worth considering a couple cautions and ideas.

The first comes from the new mayor himself.

Mr. Collins told me: “I am not going to let anyone push me into anything.” He won’t act quickly or under pressure, he said.

That’s a good rule.

Let me suggest another:

Don’t get boxed in.

The mayor should not worry that someone might say he has contradicted himself, or that he has let some political ally down, or that a political appointment could be read in this way or that. He should simply pick the people he truly feels are the best people. Trust your gut, mayor.

Balancing new and old blood will be a trick. Some people say: Enough with the same old faces. Others say: Inexperienced kids can’t run a government. The mayor-elect has found a perfect model for balance: a mentor system. Place an old timer, a grizzled vet, in a department as head for six months to a year and a fresh young face as his deputy. The apprentice inherits the directorship or commissionership when the time of apprenticeship is over. There will be wrinkles, but it’s a good and workable concept.

The most important appointment the new mayor will make will be his chief of staff, called the deputy mayor under current Mayor Mike Bell. The whole Collins administration could hang on this appointment. So, Mr. Mayor, pick someone mentally and politically tough; someone who can stand up to you and your critics. Don’t try to be clever, but pick someone totally solid. And maybe this is another case where there should be an apprenticeship — a temporary chief who trains the next chief.

Personally, though I want to see new blood, I would like to see people of standing, and independent status, come to work for the new administration, if only for a year or two: I am thinking of people like ex-police chief Mike Navarre, ex-chief of staff Bob Reinbolt, Councilman George Sarantou, and even people who would shock insiders if they were asked to join the government and accepted — like outgoing Councilman Joe McNamara, attorney Keith Wilkowski, and neighborhood health executive Doni Miller.

We are talking about bright, able, and proven people.

I can see the raised eyebrows and hear the hoots of “in your dreams” from here. But what a signal hiring people like that would send.

Some will say Mr. Reinbolt is a retread and a Carty guy. But that’s not the issue. My advice to the new mayor is: Don’t rush. Trust your gut. And pick the best people. Put meat on the bones.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: or 419-724-6266.