I’m Russ Edwards and I serve as a Hendersonville Alderman for Ward 3. I was first elected to that position in 2018 and was recently re-elected in 2020.
The city administrator (“CA”) has been a complex, evolving issue in Hendersonville over the past several years. The position was approved in May of 2019 by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (“BOMA”) by a vote of 7 to 6 to run the day-to-day operations of the city.
The CA would report to BOMA, rather than reporting solely to the mayor. When I came into office, I was adamantly opposed to having a CA, and I was outspoken about it. I voted against the enactment of the ordinance approving of the CA position. Even though I lost this issue, once the CA passed, I felt it was my duty to support it and to find the best candidate for the job.
In November of 2019, BOMA voted 10 to 3 to hire Dave LaMarbe as interim CA. Since then, I have seen first-hand the benefits of having the position. The level of professional management is a significant benefit: the handling of day-to-day operations of the city frees the mayor to perform important mayoral duties such as being the face of the city, communicating with the public, meeting with state and other officials, etc.
The CA is an engine operator that the public does not see. In order to run a successful municipality, especially one as large as Hendersonville with now almost 60,000 people, a $60 million budget, and more than 500 employees, we need someone behind the scenes ensuring this machine runs properly.
I have come to the conclusion, however, that unless we have a mayor who supports the position of a CA, it will not get off the ground and running. The CA and the mayor simply must work together in order for the endeavor to be successful. Our mayor is and has been adamantly opposed to the CA, and this was his primary campaign issue. An overwhelming majority of Hendersonville voters, including the constituents I represent, recently voted to re-elect Mayor Clary. This cannot be ignored. I also cannot ignore many citizens’ opposition to the CA. When I was on the outside looking in, I felt the same way.
The above reasons are why I recently voted on the ordinance to eliminate the CA position and instead to create the position of chief of operations. I was pleasantly surprised to see it unanimously passed by BOMA. The chief of operations will report to the mayor, will be selected by the mayor with confirmation from BOMA, will run the day-to-day operations of the city, and will perform any other duties assigned to him or her by the mayor.
This position will maintain a level of professional management to handle the daily minutiae and allow the mayor to perform the higher-level duties.
Until recently, I heard numerous complaints about the toxic division of BOMA, which I experienced myself. Our constituents and the city need and deserve their elected officials on BOMA to have a harmonious, professional relationship, even when we disagree on issues. I have heard many expressions of gratitude lately regarding BOMA’s demeanor. I, too, am thrilled with the level of professionalism. We have turned over a new leaf and can move forward past the controversial topic of the CA.
I want nothing more than for Hendersonville to be the wonderful city by the lake, a city I was born and raised in and where my wife and I have chosen to raise our family. As we move forward, the city and its representatives ask for your engagement and support and that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
Your humble servant,
Russ Edwards, Ward 3 Alderman