Municipal Managers Juggle Mammoth Workload

Article excerpt

Richard Charnovich survived budget season in Robinson, not that one can tell from the appearance of his office.

Paperwork is stacked on the township manager's desk, littered on shelves and piled on the floor behind his chair.

"It looks like a tornado in Kansas," said Charnovich, who has been on the job for more than four years. "I never get ahead. I am always behind."

Municipal management has become increasingly difficult as the economy falters, multimillion-dollar budgets flatten and service costs rise, area leaders say. Weeks of compensatory time goes unused because there isn't time to use it. Citizen inquiries are constant. Council members have divergent ideas that need to be melded.

Carnegie Manager Stephen Vincenti, who makes $59,200 annually, recently had 5 1/2 inches of consent orders piled on a file cabinet. Crafton Manager Doug Sample keeps his adding machine readily available on his desk for the constant number-crunching.

In many cases, they serve as a community's CEO, CFO, chief administrative officer and public information specialist all rolled into one, Vincenti said.

Baldwin Borough Council President Marian Joseph wouldn't want the job.

"I think it would be full of headaches," she said. "Mine, it's headaches, but not like the financial headaches. It would really test you."

Part of the challenge is the politically charged environment in which they operate. Every two years, their bosses -- council members, commissioners or township supervisors -- can change, bringing a new agenda.

"Sometimes, you've got to be able to walk through the raindrops," Sample said. "In my case, I have nine bosses, and they have nine ideas. You have to build a consensus among the ideas. You have to be able to tell them the bad news and make them feel OK."

The resignations this year of nine Moon administrators, including longtime township Manager Greg Smith, illustrates the inherent difficulties.

A power struggle Smith and the Board of Supervisors waged resulted in the board stripping him of his power to hire and fire employees. …