After reading the performance review of Vandalia City Manager Jon Crusey, I came away with more questions than answers.
It has been no secret that there has been some tension between some members of City Council and Crusey. It has been observable in council study sessions at times, and in fairness, some of those frustrations have been legitimate.
There is no such thing as a perfect employee, and trying to get seven people on the same page can be difficult at times. Some tension in that relationship is probably not a bad thing.
However, reading Mr. Crusey’s review leaves one wondering just how far off the tracks the relationship is. Council criticized him for not “embracing Vandalia as ‘his’ community” and for not showing leadership on “ideas/projects to improve the community.”
They also question his not “structuring administrative work plans designed to accomplish council’s goals” but then turn around in another section and say “maybe council’s lack of providing a specific vision of what we would like to see for Vandalia has been a limitation.”
Let me get this straight – is it the City Manager’s responsibility for vision or council’s? Is it a fair criticism to fault Crusey for what council says may be their responsibility?
In my opinion, and based on my reading of the Vandalia City Charter, it is council’s responsibility to lay out a vision and the city manager’s job to execute that vision. This review, and my observations over the past year, would suggest a blurring of those lines by some council members.
One of the biggest issues for some members of council has been to develop a “sense of place” – whatever that means – for Vandalia. Council has tried for the entire three years of Crusey’s tenure to explain what they mean, but if you ask seven council members to explain it you get seven different answers. I understand that because by its own words a “sense of place” is subjective – different people have different ideas as to what that means. The word “sense” is subjective by its very definition.
This frustration – failure to have a vision, let alone execute it, that no one can quite articulate isn’t just the fault of Crusey, and its an unfair criticism, especially in a document that is public record.
Council also faults Crusey’s public persona but says its more of a “personality issue than a character weakness.”
It’s true that Crusey isn’t always comfortable in crowds. He has a dry sense of humor. So what?
First of all, Council knew that when they hired him. Second, Crusey is an effective communicator. He’s never going to captivate a crowd or wow an audience, but he gets the job done.
He’s also a number cruncher and detail oriented person. The past three years have seen dramatic change in the financial health and financial reporting in the city. Not all of that is due to Crusey, but he has continued the trend of a well-run, efficient city. In the most important functions of his job – financial management – Crusey earned high praise from council.
I’ll take effective leadership over personality any day of the week.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.