Over the last week or two our illustrious mayor has taken to Facebook to campaign for his re-election, arguing that only he has the experience needed to run this town. Mayor Danny Shaw has been either a town commissioner or our mayor for almost all of the past 25 years. Is Ramseur better off now than it was 25 years ago? Ask anyone who’s been here that long and they will tell you, no, it is not.
Mayor Shaw tries to make the case that he should be reelected because he is semi-retired and will be in town to handle issues that might arise during the day, but that statement only betrays the fact that Danny Shaw either doesn’t understand the limitations of the office he holds, or he simply doesn’t care and chooses to ignore those limits at every opportunity.
In cities with a council-manager form of government a mayor or council member is prohibited by statute from acting as the town manager, even on an interim basis. Ramseur has a mayor-council form of government. We couldn’t have a town manager under this system but we can and should have an administrator.
If a mayor of commissioner is prohibited from being a manager, doesn’t it stand to reason that a mayor or commissioner acting as town administrator is a less than desirable arrangement as well? That’s exactly what we’ve had here for decades, a mayor and a clerk, acting as the de facto administration of our town.
The only thing I can think of that might be as bad or worse for the long term health of a town would be having a commissioner employed full time, not just in the administrative office, but working for the very department he oversees. We see how screwed up and dysfunctional that’s been. It might be legal due to exceptions in the law, but it’s never been a good idea.
If he doesn’t know this by now, Mayor Shaw is simply not competent to hold elected office. If he does know and he’s choosing to simply look the other way because it benefits his personal agenda, well, that’s worse than incompetence; it’s wilful ignorance, and wilful ignorance is just plain evil.
This is exactly why we need to hire a professional administrator and give that person full authority to run our town without daily interference from the mayor or the commissioners. The mayor’s duty is to sign checks, contracts, and other civil documents, chair meetings of the Board of Commissioners, break the occasional tie vote, and otherwise be the person who puts our town’s best face forward to outsiders such as business leaders, prospective new residents, and news media.
With qualified, competent employees in the right positions, neither a mayor nor any other member of our governing board needs to be in town and available 24/7. If anything the near constant presence of the mayor and a certain commissioner inside our administrative office over the past few years has done more to impair the proper functioning of our local government than anything.
The days when a mayor and a town clerk could properly govern a municipality ended at least fifty years ago. State and federal statutory constraints and stacks of modern regulations have rendered the job too complicated for laymen to be left in charge. Town councils in North Carolina are not elected to oversee clean toilets in a park, manage the operation of wastewater treatment plants, or supervise traffic control during public events. We elect them to make public policy decisions based on information and guidance provided by professionals such as town managers, attorneys, and other specialized consultants.
It really is that simple, but Danny Shaw can’t accept that. He spent his whole life wanting to be mayor of this tiny little town and to rule like those who came before him did, but the world changed while poor Danny wasn’t looking, and now people expect more; more competent leaders, more transparency, more accountability, better communication, and all of these are things Danny Shaw can not provide. He barely knows the difference between an email address and a website. He’s been caught more times than anyone can count, by more people than anyone can name, telling different versions of any given story depending on who he’s telling. Danny Shaw is wrong for Ramseur, and this November 5th we’re going to deliver that message loud and clear.