CH needs a real city administrator

There is a puzzle game called “Where's Waldo?” In it, a lot of faces appear closely together in a picture. The player is challenged to find that one face belonging to a character called Waldo. That face is hidden and hard to find. This past year, Mayor Seren set up his own such puzzle at Cleveland Heights City Hall. What was hard to find there was the face of the city administrator. The mayor kept it hidden.

The CH City Charter requires Mayor Seren to hire a city administrator. As of this writing, this position remains vacant. It has been vacant much too long.

Daily tasks of local government are to be supervised by a talented professional. The mayor then could be free to tackle big strategic issues. Hiring a “city manager,” as in former times, would not be necessary. By failing to fill the position, Seren has ignored the mandate of Issue 26.

Mayor Seren previously hired Joe Sinnott as city administrator. Sinnott had a great résumé. He was a former mayor of Erie, Pa. He had executive experience. But at the direction of Mayor Seren, Sinnott played no visible role in governing. Like Waldo, he was in the picture but hard to find. He did nothing obvious to improve terrible communications between the executive and legislative branches of government. His talents were wasted.

Mayor Seren kept Sinnott away from contact with CH City Council and the public. City services then became based less on need and merit than in the past. They became based more on political preferences. Consider “No Mow May” as a prime example.

Sinnott lasted only a year. He resigned in March. He accepted an opportunity in Pennsylvania that he said was “too compelling to pass up.” Sinnott claimed there were “no negative connotations or inferences” to be drawn from his abrupt departure. But maybe his reason for leaving was that the job was not what had been promised. 

Dissatisfaction must have contributed to his resignation. He found returning to Pennsylvania more to his liking than working in Cleveland Heights.

Mayor Seren proved unable to use, motivate, and retain a highly qualified person as city administrator. Hopefully, his next hire will be more visible and more effective. Cleveland Heights needs a real city administrator. It does not need another highly paid Waldo.

Alan Rapoport

Alan Rapoport, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, served on CH City Council (1980–87) and as council president/mayor (1982–87).

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Volume 16, Issue 8, Posted 1:34 PM, 07.31.2023