Mayor Patrick Madden seems plagued with vacancies in his first trimester. The departure of City Engineer Andrew Donovan adds to the list. Currently, Troy does not have a full-time Comptroller, a Commissioner of Planning and Economic Development or a City Engineer. Other, more minor positions also remain vacant.
So what gives? Most municipalities have little problem filling these roles. At worst, there is typically a pool of mid-level political hacks that can fill these roles and be at least barely competent if not inspired.
According to a source close to the administration, Madden has an unrealistic view of local government and a distaste for local politics. The former view is alarming, the latter view understandable yet naïve.
During early Administration meetings, the most overheard quote was: "We want to be the adults." An admirable sentiment depending on the definition of 'adult.'
What exactly does that mean? Two things: the Madden folks believe that they can eschew politics and focus on building a professional organization that will focus on competence and ability, and; the opposition can engage in governance by press release but they wont engage in petty political battles. In short, politics is beneath them.
Like many ideas and centerfolds, this looks quite good on paper as well as in meetings between election day and inauguration day. The limits of this philosophy are readily apparent. Key positions are unfilled. Monica is overworked and floundering according to one source (while another source says she is drowning). City Council President Mantello has become the voice of Troy Government on the theory that no press release or comment is too small or irrelevant.
We believe the Administration's position on politics is, in part, the reason why they have trouble with filling positions at City Hall. One of Rosamilia's faults (among many) was not listening to the people he brought in to the administration. Yet, he did not have a problem bringing people in to the administration.
One can rarely get the best of the best to take positions in City Hall. The salaries do not lend themselves to competition with the elite in the private sector. True, some do surprise and surpass expectations but minimal competence might be the only option. That is a fact of life that Madden needs to face. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good.
Madden's other issue is that he believes he won the election and primary despite Democratic Chair Tom Wade.
While there is room for debate, it is not unreasonable to believe that Madden won the primary due to Ernest Everett's bid for the nomination. Maybe Everett voters could have made up the difference for Wiltshire, maybe not. Reasonable minds can differ. However, the County Chair of the Democratic Party can be a valuable resource in staffing. Another quote that sums up the dynamic between the two men is Pat's: "I felt like I was running against Rodney, Jim and Tom Wade."
Yes, many city hall jobs are patronage jobs. That's another mean fact of life in every administration. Tutunjian, Crawley, Mitchell and Mirch haven't exactly set the private sector on fire during their careers. They were 'small government' Republicans that spent most of their lives on the public teat.
Madden should work with Wade to find competent, loyal Democrats to fill the vacancies at City Hall. That builds the party, creates loyalty to Madden and ensures that there are enough staff to deliver the services that citizens pay for. He must be the first out of the gate with news and press releases. People need to know he's in charge. Right now, it feels like Madden is floundering. Vacancies are just a symptom of the problem.
Being the adult means recognizing certain realities and acting within those realities.