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Headhunters Coming To Fort Bragg (Really)

I barely got to enjoy the rough dismissal of Fort Bragg city manager Linda Ruffing from her three grand a week job when I learned that the city intends to fill the vital office of city manager by engaging a professional City Manager Employment Agency (yes there is such an exotic animal) to scour California and the world beyond for some distinguished genius who might be induced by piles of cash to come and show us how to run our city. I was told not to worry; no stone would be left unturned. Greatness is out there; we just have to find it. Hiring a professional head hunter is how you do that.

It makes me feel old and tired.

When the founding fathers kicked George III out of his own colonies they did not hire a recruiting agency to find them a more equitable king. They recognized that drop kicking authority meant that they would have to invent anew the means and methods of governing.

When the City Council started to peel away the prevarications and learned the truth of how the town had been run, Linda Ruffing did not last long. The problems that the city has stacked up behind the smiling façade of the City Manager are big damn problems. I have little doubt that the dismissal of Linda Ruffing, although abrupt, worked to her ultimate advantage. Had she simply retired in two years, the truth would have come out anyway. Now she is positioned to leave us a Gordian knot and blame the City Council for their lack of comprehension.

Perhaps a first class employment agency can import a first class manager from somewhere else. (The head hunters are retired city managers, by the way.)

But if the City Council is hoping that anyone at all can simply make the bad go away, they are dreaming

Linda Ruffing hid the truth about the desperate conflict over water with the State Department of Fsh and Wildlife. Nor did she think it worthwhile to mention until the last that the city faces legal bankruptcy in three years as the CALPERS (city and county employees’ pension fund) assessment comes barreling down on us. She made it possible for the development director to plod languidly along in the essential negotiations for the mill site, taking refuge behind the coastal trail that circumvents a dangerous toxic dump. She did nothing to prevent the Department of Toxic substances control from abandoning the city to its fate and leaving us an unusable unsafe “cleaned up” mill. She is implicated in still unresolved $3 million botch-up of the general fund. She has let deficit financing become routine while spinning her administration as financially supersmart as the Fort Bragg Advocate ran interference for her. She stalled and dithered and smiled while the flood waters mounted ever higher.

If the Founding constitutional convention in 1787 had tried to invent a new form of monarchy they would not have created the blueprint for the most successful democratic government in the history of man on earth.

They were concerned to create a framework for government, but they had an inestimable advantage that was also their most formidable challenge. They knew that a revolutionary nation demanded a government by the people. Kings had been tried and found inadequate.

The driving fuel of successful government in Fort Bragg will be an informed electorate.

I don’t know if we have it now. But we will have to get it to survive.

For 20 years the various city councils have hidden their various heads and submerged their various intelligences while the City Manager sang soothing lullabies and kept the difficult stuff in the filing cabinet. Now the council knows in part that they have shot a hole in the bottom of the boat that carried us far and wide across the dreamscape of unreality. No matter how you slice it civic Fort Bragg faces a major headache. The decisions that they make will not be popular. The hard ones never are.

The decisions that Linda Ruffing made always were hugely popular because she only made her decisions public on rare occasions and only when they would be certain not to worry or offend anybody. The City Council can find a new City Manager patsy to blame for rough times and try to remain aloof. They can hope for a genius to some swooping in and make it all better. Or they can level with the city. Take responsibility. Stop meeting like it was a bi-weekly bridge club and get down to the work of dealing with the issues of the city.

The city manager managed us, the city council no longer has her acting as buffer. The first thing that we should expect is candor. Hiring a headhunter does nothing to engage us in the future of our own town. That’s our job.

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