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Mayor vs. manager draws few

"POULSBO - Judging by the generous supply of cookies available, organizers expected a much larger crowd than the dozen people who came Saturday to the Sons of Norway to discuss Poulsbo's possible change from mayor to city manager. Those who did invest an hour were treated to a lively discussion. Community members received complete, factual answers to questions about how Poulsbo would function under a different form of government if voters approve the ballot measure on May 15. Members of Poulsbo's blue-ribbon commission, which studied the issue over a long period of time, were also on hand to answer questions about the proposed change and how other cities have made the switch. Many of the questions about how a change from mayor to city manager would happen were directed to Ed Stern, a Poulsbo city councilmember who is outspoken in his support for a switch to the city manager form of government. Stern compared the running of the city government with the administration of a school district. He compared the selection of a school superintendent with that of the selection of a city manager. Superintendents are screened carefully, he said. You wouldn't leave decisions about your children's education in the hands of an 'amateur.' Why would we want to risk $25 million of our taxpayer dollars annually on an amateur? Questions concerning the recruiting, compensation, and operation under a city manager style were answered by moderator Robert Ford, executive director of the Greater Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce, and city officials who were in attendance. Some people were concerned about the role of the mayor, and the compensation of the mayor, under a city manager form of government. Ford and Stern explained that the mayor would be primarily a figurehead position under a city manager government-representing Poulsbo at ribbon cuttings and other similar occasions. The mayor would be selected by the city council from among its own membership. If the proposal to adopt a city manager form of government passes, Mayor Donna Jean Bruce would complete her current term of office. Stern views the incremental salary increase for a city manager, expected to be about $30,000 more than the current mayor's salary, as a good investment that would be returned by more efficient, proactive government. Jim Ramstead a Poulsbo resident since 1962, expressed his support for the mayoral form of government. Herb Myers, owner of Boxlight, spoke in favor of the city manager approach. Speaking as a business person, I'm in favor of having a city manager. We need continuity. We need to know what's coming down. We need to know what we can count on, in spite of political ups and downs, Myers said. The blue ribbon commission studied other Washington communities which had changed to the city manager form of government. After a transition period of adjustment, most were generally pleased with the change. Herbert Ky, commented on the need to have a professional at the helm of city operations. If a professor is taking care of operations, things go smoothly, it cuts down on the flailing, things get and stay on track. A final town meeting will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 21 at the Poulsbo Fire Station. "

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