03/10/05 — City Council promises to improve services

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City Council promises to improve services

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 10, 2005 1:52 PM

PINE KNOLL SHORES -- Goldsboro officials pledged Wednesday to improve city services, which some say have slipped in recent years.

During their annual retreat, City Council members urged City Manager Joe Huffman to set high standards for department heads, including holding annual performance reviews, and encouraged them to do the same for their employees.

"Whatever we're doing, we can do better, Councilman Bob Waller said.

"We can be second to none," Huffman agreed.

Some council member said that the city has been lax in some of its responsibilities. Both Waller and Councilman Jimmy Bryan noted the persistent problem of litter on city streets.

"We have to make sure we get the basics done," Bryan said.

Other said some city employees have a reputation of being indifferent to the citizens they are supposed to serve.

"We need to be more customer friendly, across the board," Mayor Al King said.

Huffman, who became city manager in January, said he welcomes the challenge.

"I am absolutely excited about the possibilities," he said.

"It's a new day, the slate is clean," Councilman Chuck Allen said, "Let's do what we need to do."

Councilmen used the opening afternoon of the retreat, held at the Royal Pavilion Hotel, to talk about what they expect of Huffman and in turn, what he wants from them.

One of the top priorities is open honest communication, they said.

Councilmen need to be aware of news or issues before citizen or reporters call to ask questions, King said.

"Give us the good news and the bad, we can take it."

"We can take the good better, Allen said.

Huffman asked how much the councilmen wanted to know.

"I'd rather see you err on the side of too much information," Allen said.

Council members also asked Huffman to help them maintain a close working relationship with the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, improve communication with the county Board of Education and give more progress reports on projects.

In turn, Huffman asked the council to come to his office first with concerns about city departments. Council members have grown accustomed to going directly to department heads or supervisors, but City Attorney Tim Finan cautioned them to avoid the impression that city employees should report to the council.

"Only two people, the manager and I, work for you," Finan said.

The manager and council will also need to adjust to basic differences in their personality types.

All the city officials took Myers-Briggs personality exams prior to the retreat. As they studied the results Wednesday, they learned that all seven council members had tested as "sensing" types, while Huffman was extreme in the other direction, the "intuitive" type.

That means the council members tend to be focused on the present, what they can see and hear, while the manager is more concerned about future possibilities.

Or, as Bryan put it, "We want action now, He's more of down-the-road thinker,"

Huffman said he had already noticed that some council members had pushed him to make decisions before he is comfortable.

The manager planned to present ideas today about a 10-year plan for the city. The retreats Friday.