“The mission of the City of Corpus Christi, Texas, is to deliver municipal services which meet the vital health, safety, and general welfare needs of the residents and which sustain and improve their quality of life. As we work to achieve this mission, we will employ fiscal discipline, continuous improvement, first-rate customer services, and straightforward communications. In this work, we will tolerate no mediocrity.” City of Corpus Christi Mission Statement
Either the City staff has no idea what the word “mediocrity” means in its Mission Statement, or they simply don’t know how to avoid falling into the state of mediocrity. Since we can’t do a single thing about what has happened in the past, we must use the past to attend to the future as much as possible. This plan is not about changing chloramine levels, developing a seal coat plan, or overcoming budget shortfalls, though these problems will be solved as a direct result of the plan. This plan is about avoiding the Peter Principle (promoting people to their level of incompetency) when hiring or promoting personnel. This plan is about seeking out the best problem-solvers, allowing them to work unfettered, and paying them to stay in their areas of expertise.
- Step 1: Elect council members who do their homework, speak plainly, ask the most probing questions of city staff, and have the best interest of the public in mind with every decision they make.
- Step 2: The council must hire a city manager who has common sense, an ability to see the big picture and the details, the courage to mind the store, the ability to identify problem employees and fire them if they don’t produce at a quality level, and a willingness to develop a compensation system that rewards those who are doing an excellent job based on the quality of the final product. (Note: Many jobs in the city go unfilled or are filled by mediocre candidates because an engineering degree is required. Not all with a degree actually know what they’re doing. The city must avow to hire the best person for the job, not the one with the thickest resume’.)
- Step 3: The city manager must hire bright people with an exceptional work ethic who know how to get the best out of their employees they manage. The city manager must hold these assistant managers completely accountable for what happens in their departments. Only answers founded in empirical evidence will be tolerated.
- Step 4: Department managers must look inside their departments for people of integrity who are problem-solvers, the unconventional thinkers who see the story behind the numbers, and the code-breakers who are capable of creative, lateral thinking. These people should be paid bonuses for consistently making a positive difference in their department that saves the city time and the taxpayers money while still getting a quality product. (When the word gets out that the city is committed to hiring people based on their exceptional gifts and talents and rewarding them for their ability to use those gifts and talents, the best and brightest will apply for the open positions. The thought process should be: If my child needs a heart surgeon, I want the best one I can find. This may cost more, but what is gained in the long run will prove that the money was well-spent.)
- Step 5: The media and the public must be kept apprised of all that goes on in the city. Transparency cannot just be a word that is thrown about haphazardly. It must be a commitment to the people that “mediocrity will not be tolerated.”
These kinds of people exist right here in Corpus Christi, Texas. Will the city do what is necessary to prevent the problems of the past from slapping us again in the future? That remains to be seen.
Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day. She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.