Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Barwin's First Day

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Barwin's First Day

Article excerpt

Sarasota's new city manager needs and deserves support

When the Sarasota City Commission meets today, Tom Barwin will sit -- for the first time -- in the city manager's chair.

Barwin will, we hope, receive a warm reception and pledges of support from the commissioners, fellow staff -- including the city clerk -- and members of the public.

Like all city managers, Barwin will find himself on the hot seat soon enough.

But, for his sake -- and, most important, the public good -- he deserves an immediate opportunity to succeed.

A successful manager must demonstrate leadership skills early in his administration -- efficiently organizing and directing staff, bringing new ideas to the table and effectively engaging with commissioners to establish priorities and accountability measures.

Leadership also requires listening -- to commissioners, staff and the public -- and working to build the consensus needed to manage city government and implement important political policies.

Achieving success in any city, under any circumstances, is challenging. But Barwin assumes the job as city manager under unusual conditions.

Administration in flux

Barwin replaces Terry Lewis, who has served ably in an interim role since Robert Bartolotta resigned in January under pressure from a majority of city commissioners. The ostensible reason for Bartolotta's departure was an investigation into the city's computer department -- then under the purview of the manager.

Responsibility for the department was transferred by the City Commission to the clerk's office; the investigation, conducted by consultants and outside agencies, remains unresolved, a troubling loose end. A proposed amendment to the city charter on the general election ballot would return control of the computer department to the manager, so more to come on this story.

What's more, the City Commission narrowly voted against placing an initiative on the ballot to dramatically change Sarasota's form of government by electing a mayor directly responsible for administering the city. …

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