ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Andrew Edwards. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
Many people were unnerved when the Birmingham Board of Education fired Superintendent Kelley Castlin-Gacutan. Others were shaken last year when the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority essentially pushed out well-respected Ann August, its Executive Director.
There are deep leadership problems in play in our Birmingham area.
I think a large majority of our area public board and council members do not understand their role, and are not organized to succeed.
The problem is caused by a severe misunderstanding of Board members’ role.
Although I see for the most part good and honest Board members serving, they seem to misunderstand the “fiduciary” definition and use it to intervene whenever they don’t fully understand or like decisions being made by the executives the boards have selected. It’s micro-management at its worst, and they cloak it in their “fiduciary responsibility” and recently “transparency.”
Board members seem to get way more kudos when they catch a few dollars misspent than they do when they help build a system– be it school, transit, or general government– to become successful over time. It is the culture in this community, and our local columnists help to fuel this fire by making a sport of alleged misspending.
City council members would be wise to remember their role as the legislative branch of their governments, and provide direction to their executive branch with policies and funding. Birmingham’s self-approved pay raise only perpetuates their problem by encouraging them to work full time at City Hall, and not live and work full time as a producing citizen in the community.
One thing I supported at the BJCTA Board –mostly unsuccessfully– was the development of a Board mission statement (separate from the organization’s) and a clear committee structure to get properly organized to succeed. If the Board could function properly, the organization would follow suit. Regrettably the Board could not function well with itself or the Executive Director.
Board members and councilors are appointed or elected to provide vision and select executive leadership. Board members should hire auditors to ensure spending controls and catch fraud. I hope our local board members and city councilors (both Birmingham and the surrounding cities, including my own Vestavia Hills) can learn to keep the top performing executives we do have and will get in the future, and learn that a fiduciary role means to ensure long term success for their organization.
Andrew Edwards is President of Dunn Building Company of Birmingham, a resident of Vestavia Hills, and a past Board member of the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
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