The Need For A Village Manager In Lakewood Hasn’t Been Proven

When she was running to be Lakewood’s mayor, Cara Birrittieri made no qualms about the fact that Lakewood residents were getting a full-time mayor for a part-time price.

“There are a lot of reasons, but first and foremost I have the time to work every day and be available basically 24/7,” she told The Post-Journal in October 2015. “I am not working full time. I have a tremendous amount of professional experience. I am very open and easy to approach. I would want to be available to anyone. Any resident in the village. Any worker in the village and their families. I just want to be there. I know that it’s a village, a good-sized village, I really believe that we need more than a mayor that will be there one day a week for office hours. I want to have office hours every day, and if I’m not in the office, I’m available 24/7.”

How things change over the course of 2¢ years. Earlier this month, the Lakewood Village Board began discussing creating a new position of village manager or village administrator because, Democrats Ted McCague and Doug Schutte said, running a municipality is not a part-time job at this point. We point out that Anthony Caprino was perfectly capable of running the village on a part-time basis, as was Birrittieri’s predecessor, Dave Wordelmann. We’re not sure why, all of a sudden, running a village is so complex, particularly when one of the casualties of being busy is not having time to write a newsletter.

Several Lakewood residents voiced opposition to the idea during Monday’s meeting, which makes us think it would probably be wise to wait more than two months after approving a tax levy increase of more than 9 percent to propose creating a new administrative position. The opposition is noteworthy since village residents still haven’t seen any specifics about pay, benefits or job duties. The fact the public discussion has been so scant on details makes us wonder what other sorts of options haven’t been discussed yet.

If running Lakewood is indeed that complex that a village manager is absolutely necessary, perhaps the village should abolish the mayor’s position altogether. A manager may not make any sense the way village government is designed now, but perhaps a full-time village manager beholden to an active Village Board that can hire and fire the manager would be a good way to go. In that scenario, having a mayor makes little sense. The manager in that situation likely wouldn’t be beholden to politics with some board members feeling left out of discussions. It would be necessary to build consensus.

Or, how about finding a way to share duties with Busti. One of the long-running issues in Lakewood is the complex relationship between the town and the village. Before thinking about adding a possibly highly paid position to Lakewood, has the board reached out to Jesse Robbins, Busti town supervisor, about ways the town and village can share some of their office operations to uncomplicate running the village? The offices should be in the same building anyway, but for now the town and village offices are only separated by a couple of blocks. Or, perhaps Celoron and Lakewood, since they’re relative neighbors, can help each other with back office work if working with Busti is too “difficult.”

It’s time for someone to insert some common sense here. If this writer’s 4-year-old child can throw a stone from one government office and hit the other, there must be a chance to work together and save taxpayers some money while still providing necessary services.

The village of Lakewood may need to make changes, though that case hasn’t been proven. If the village is going to change its administrative structure, it should consider all of its options before rushing into a government expansion that may be unnecessary and costly to taxpayers.