By LIZ BUTTON
Tuckahoe’s Board of Trustees has created a new village administrator position to help run the village, one of the last in Westchester County that still does not have such an officer.
“One of the things this village lacked is the steady-handed presence of a village administrator,” Tuckahoe Mayor Steven Ecklond, a Republican, said. It is a recommendation, Ecklond said, that he has made for years.
The job will entail maintaining daily control of all village operations and overseeing all department heads. In sum, an administrator is the chief municipal officer hired to run the day-to-day operations of the village and implement policies set by the mayor and the rest of the five-member board.
The village, which has a budget of approximately $11.5 million and a staff of approximately 50 full-time employees, set aside funds for a village administrator position in its 2014-2015 budget, which the Board of Trustees adopted on April 28.
A final salary for the position has not yet been determined.
After a public hearing at its May 12 meeting, the board voted unanimously to amend the village code to create the new position, with Republican Trustee Tom Giordano absent from the vote.
Last year, the village’s Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee recommended the addition of an administrator position to village staff.
The job of mayor in Tuckahoe is paid, but part-time, so a full-time administrator will be able to respond to the needs of department heads while village offices are open and will be the one to hold all village departments accountable on a daily basis.
As part of the job, the new administrator will report to and meet with the Board of Trustees on a weekly basis.
“There have been an awful lot of brilliant ideas that have come out of our board members over the last year or so,” Ecklond said, “and we recognize that the only way that we can actually get some of these great thoughts processed and implemented is going to be through the village administrator’s stewardship.”
The Village of Larchmont, led by Democratic Mayor Anne McAndrews, is also considering creating a village administrator position. McAndrews, who volunteers full-time as mayor, said she was surprised when she heard Tuckahoe’s announcement that they were planning to do the same.
“We’ve been suffering for too long [without one],” she said.
McAndrews said that the village’s clerk retired a few months ago, so that has opened up the possibility of creating a new position that combines the duties of a clerk and a village administrator, which would be very cost-effective, she said.
As they set about the search process, McAndrews said the Larchmont village board will continue to work with its hired consultant to refine a list of the village’s particular needs. The new position’s main duty, however, will be dealing with the general day-to-day operations of the village, which the board and village staff currently handle on its own. The creation of a clerk/administrator will free up more time for the board to fulfill its true role of setting policy, McAndrews said.
“On this board we need continuity. I have been mayor for two years and I just re-upped for another two years,” she said. “The kinds of activities that an administrator does are not political activities; they are not short-term: they are a continuation of the business of the village. This is what they call public administration. This is a profession.”
Republican Mayor Norman Rosenblum, top elected official in the Village of Mamaroneck, explained that one can think of the structure of village government as comparable to a corporation’s division of powers.
The role of the mayor is comparable to that of chairman of the board of a company, Rosenblum said, while the trustees are the other board members. The board sets policies and makes guiding decisions for the company. The village manager or administrator acts as would the president of the company, Rosenblum said, in carrying out the everyday operations of the business.
The Village of Mamaroneck employs Richard Slingerland as its current village manager.
The difference between a village manager and a village administrator is not just one of semantics; a village manager has more basic autonomy than a village administrator and often works to develop the budget on his or her own, or with the help of a treasurer, before bringing it to the board.
The most common differential between the two designations, is that, while a village administrator reports directly to the village’s chief elected official, the village manager reports to the entire governing body, according to a representative of International City/County Management Association, a 501(c)3 organization that provides support to local government management professionals. This formula can vary from state to state and municipality to municipality, as it would in Tuckahoe’s case.
At its April 28 meeting, the Tuckahoe trustees unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the mayor to sign a professional services agreement with a former Dobbs Ferry mayor and Irvington village administrator, Donald P. Marra, to act as a consultant, at a cost of up to $6,900, in the search, interview and hiring processes for its village administrator position. Marra ran the recent administrator search in Bronxville, which has a village budget of $13 million and 65 full-time employees.
This month, Bronxville’s search resulted in the hiring of Mount Kisco Village Manager Jim Palmer; he will succeed Harold Porr, who retired March 27.
For Tuckahoe and Bronxville, the requirements for the position are much the same, Marra said.
Marra was also appointed as Bronxville’s interim administrator until June 23, when Palmer takes over the organization.
In Bronxville though, in addition to being responsible for all day-to-day operations of the village, the administrator is also responsible for working with the treasurer to create fiscally responsible budgets. In Tuckahoe, the new administrator will not create the budget, but help keep track of its daily administration; in essence, creating another level of fiscal oversight.
Marra has posted an ad for the Tuckahoe job on the New York State City/County Management Association’s website, which has an application due date of May 21. Ecklond said he expects to speak with Marra this week to get salary recommendations, and the board will soon get the chance to meet with some of the candidates Bronxville’s search process has already recruited.
Ecklond said Tuckahoe is fortunate to be able to piggyback on the Village of Bronxville’s recently completed search for a village administrator. The village will begin interviewing these candidates while Marra continues to seek out new ones.
“This is perfect timing. Everything is just kind of lined up for us and we have contingency funding that we set aside in our budget to cover this expense,” Ecklond said.
The village has not yet come up with a timeline for the search process’ completion.