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Making Government Work
Methuen Mayor Billy Manzi

First as a City Councilor, and now as a Mayor, I have always realized the importance of being able to build coalitions and forge compromise, even in the face of widely disparate viewpoints. My ability to work well with others is reflected in my record of having been elected President of the Methuen City Council on seven occasions, as well as the regional approach I have taken as Mayor, working in concert with my colleagues from the Merrimack Valley to form the Merrimack Valley Mayor’s coalition. I firmly believe that the best way to avoid paralyzing political gridlock is to put aside ego and work for the best solution possible. In this City Council session we have managed to do just that, achieving success and relative political harmony. Now lets talk issues.

The Methuen City Council, in its budget deliberations, cut out the position of Human Resources Director. While I disagree with this cut, it now presents Methuen with an opportunity to achieve a management synergy that we had talked of during the last Mayoral campaign. At the July 9th City Council meeting I will propose a Joint Human Resources Office, creating one Director for the Methuen Public Schools as well as the City. Where we have had two Department heads we will now have one. Where we ran two separate departments we will now run one.

Where we spent taxpayer money needlessly on redundant administrative functions we will create management efficiency. The cost for this new position will be split equally between City and School, with the Superintendent participating in the decision-making relative to the new director. The Superintendent and I have authorized the joint purchase of Human Resources software, eliminating the past practice of each side buying expensive and non-interchangeable software. We examined software that works for both sides, and the School side as well as the City side will benefit at half the cost. Superintendent Whitten and I will continue, using best management practices, to evaluate further administrative synergies between school and City. In this age of limited resources we must examine ways to reduce administrative duplication and find further ways to share items that can easily be used across artificial boundaries.

The Merrimack Valley Mayor’s Coalition is an effort to find similar synergies, but across city borders. This effort joins Newburyport, Amesbury, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell and Methuen. Our initial effort, managed by the Merrimack Valley Planning Agency Executive Director Dennis DiZoglio, is to find ways to share expensive DPW equipment and it includes the possibility of joint purchase of some equipment by the coalition. We have just begun, but the promise is there, and I firmly believe that regionalizing some municipal efforts will bring savings to our taxpayers. While we have come out as a group in favor of the Municipal Partnership Act, I believe it is incumbent on us to look at the other side of the ledger as well, taking bold steps to reduce governmental duplication and administrative waste.

At the July 9th Methuen City Council meeting I will present a resolution of support for the concept of regional 911. Fire Chief Cliff Gallant has represented Methuen at the regional meetings that have made great progress in creating such a system. Methuen is one of the charter members of the Essex County group studying such a possibility, and I am committed to doing everything we can to achieve this goal. This is yet again another case of a potential reduction in operating costs to the taxpayers of Methuen without any reduction in service.

Finally I would like to talk about something that happened a few months ago, but is significant to this story. Methuen, Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were presented with the MMA Innovation in Government award for the Merrimack Valley Means Business program, sponsored by the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce. The MMA has said, “The business-assistance program, involving Methuen, Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, as well as the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, has three basic goals: to attract new businesses, to retain existing businesses, and to encourage those businesses to expand.” We have worked together across this regional economy to protect the jobs of all Merrimack Valley residents, and have achieved success by economic cooperation which is unprecedented.

The prospect for municipal finance is bleak statewide, and we must, as managers, seek to find efficiency and synergies where we can. Building relationships, and achieving results with people that may have a different perspective, is a critical part of this job. I will continue to work in this direction in a second term.

Bill Manzi is the mayor of Methuen and is in his first two year term. He served previously as the city council president and is seeking reelection this November. You can email him at  wmmanzi@ci.methuen.ma.us.

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The July 2007 Edition of the Valley Patriot
The Valley Patriot is a Monthly Publication.
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