A city manager should live in the city

A city ordinance requiring Livingston’s city manager to live within the town’s limits should not be amended to accommodate a Californian interested in moving to the area and building a house in Paradise Valley.

The City Commission discussed the issue during last week’s work session, and the topic will likely resurface during subsequent discussions about filling the vacant city manager seat.

The position has been open since October, when then-City Manager Ed Meece resigned. Lisa Lowy, the city’s human resources manager, has stepped into the role on an interim basis while commissioners consider applicants.

The commission has identified candidate California resident Timothy Miller as a “strong” applicant for the city manager post. Problem is, Miller has said he plans to relocate and build a new home in Paradise Valley, according to city officials.

Miller currently serves as the city administrator in Sonora, California, a town of roughly 5,000 residents.

The city of Sonora does not require the city administrator to live in city limits, and Miller lives roughly 13 miles outside of town, said Mayor Ron Stearn.

Stearn said Miller drives a city vehicle to and from work, weather permitting, and that his residency outside of city limits has never been an issue.

Mayor Stearn, when told about Livingston’s residency requirement for a city manager, said he disagrees with the policy.

“That kind of restricts your ability to get who you want, that’s my personal opinion,” Stearn, who has served 52 years on the Sonora City Council, said. “They might have had a reason for it originally, but it doesn’t sound too brilliant to me.”

Yet some Livingston residents have voiced opposition to the idea of amending the existing city ordinance. Opponents of the idea have said they want a city manager who’s 100 percent invested in the community, both emotionally and financially. 

The city manager should live among his or her constituents, commute to work from inside the city and get caught at the train crossing at 7:50 a.m. — if the city manager lives on the north side of town — just like the rest of us. 

Our city manager should feel the everyday impacts of city ordinances and policies just like the other citizens as they live and move about town, whether during the morning commute or while walking home from the Farmers Market.

As of Friday morning, 71 percent of respondents to a Livingston Enterprise online poll have voted that the Livingston City Commission should not revoke the ordinance requiring the city manager to live inside city limits.

The 29 percent of respondents who support amending the ordinance likely have good arguments in favor of amending the ordinance. 

Could a city manager be effective while living outside city limits? Most likely. Requiring the next city manager to live in town isn’t a panacea. Former City Manager Meece lived inside the city limits and that didn’t stop the commission from attempting to fire him — more than once.

However, having the city manager live in town is a sign the manager — the spokesperson for Livingston — is invested in our community.

As discussions about the city manager vacancy advance, our city leaders should stand behind the 1980 city ordinance that requires our city manager and city attorney to live in city limits.

— Justin Post
Enterprise Managing Editor