City government must run much like sports team to succeed

Sep 13 2012 - 10:48pm

"If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else."

-- Yogi Berra

Maneuvering through the political maze that exists in city government creates a challenge for the majority of Utah municipal elected officials whose service is in addition to their career employment.

Respected men and women who seek to improve the community's quality of life place their name on a ballot with the realization that their chosen profession will leave them lacking full knowledge of the governmental process.

With a passion to make a difference, these individuals willingly volunteer to assume responsibility and improve their understanding of bureaucratic leadership while at the same time exposing themselves and their families to possible ridicule for decisions they make that affect the lives of those they serve.

The elected foundation of a Utah city comprises nonpartisan officials who simply serve the people without the influence of a political party.

They are your neighbors, your friends and associates who face real-life problems that are the same as those faced by the people they represent.

They are imperfect people striving to perfect a pursuit of happiness for the constituents who voted for them.

The management of a municipality should encompass the most important issues facing that body of people and the personal satisfaction with the cultural and intellectual conditions enjoyed in its neighborhoods.

It has become increasingly evident that proactive thinking concerning the needs of those who reside in a community must be at the forefront for these public servants.

My belief is, grass-roots responsibility positions a city to make the most of trends.

Commitment to expand and strengthen the job base assures economic and literal health.

To illustrate how an effective municipal government comprising nonprofessional politicians must operate, a sports metaphor comes to mind: A mayor, selected by the electorate, is placed as the coach of a team and is surrounded by competent assistants (city council members).

As a coaching staff, they select the best quarterback the market provides (city manager). That person then works to unify the team (city staff and employees).

Together, the right chemistry and proper attitude are developed and individual abilities synchronized into a team of professionals that produces winning results.

It is critically important to the solidarity of the team that there is a consensus and mutual respect between the coach and players. If the coach expects respect, that person needs to earn it through the way he or she leads.

If the coach values all players in each person's individual roles and instructs them with confidence, the players will, in turn, execute the game plan and readily adjust to the coach's sideline signals in order to score the points needed to win.

To avoid gridlock that can occur with the existence of close-minded ideology, the body of city elected officials needs to travel the same avenue once a final decision is made.

Differing opinions, when discussed civilly and with tolerance, lead to good government and result in conclusions that all can live with.

Steve Curtis has worked as a business consultant and communication specialist. He is currently mayor of Layton. He can be reached at

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