The hunt is still on for a new city manager and two city council members in the city of Harrington, but city business continues regardless. Chief of Police Norman Barlow has been appointed acting city manager, and new council members will be chosen in early July.
It’s been a busy month in Harrington.
After the city manager and two councilmen all quit in the space of two weeks, the local government has had to finish a $6 million budget, hammer out new tax and utility laws, and hunt for replacements, without a third of its top officials.
Former City Manager John Schatzschneider turned his resignation on May 16. City council member Leonard Englehart followed suit at a council meeting that evening. By the end of June, council member John Baynard had also left, citing health reasons.
“It’s been surprising, to say the least,” Vice Mayor Cheryl Lehman said. “But we’ve been in worse places. We’re just trying to be good stewards of our citizens’ money and get everything straightened out.”
The city council seats are still open to applications until the end of the month. Until they find a permanent city manager, however, that job has gone to Chief of Police Norman Barlow. Barlow, who started with the city as a public-works employee before entering the police academy, has been a constant in the city since 1991, and part of the police department since 1993.
“I’m elated that the mayor and council have the confidence in me to take hold of this spot until they find a new city manager,” he said. “It was a surprise, but I said ‘sure’ and I appreciate them having that confidence in me.”
Until the council appoints a new manager, Barlow will be shuttling between his office in the police station and the city manager’s desk, just across the street.
“It’s interesting to wear both hats, to go back and forth between both buildings, but I’m not being overwhelmed at either one,” he said. “I can call on any one of them at any given time and ask them to do something, and I don’t have to worry about it. It’ll be done.”
The city’s first priority has been the $6 million budget, which had to be approved before last year’s budget expires at the end of June — city manager or no city manager.
That happened at the June 20 city council meeting, along with the approval of five new laws that reduced the per-household “capitation tax,” change the way vacant buildings are administered, adjusted utility disconnection fees, added official prices for copying and notary services at City Hall and, finally, set down rules for electronic business signs.
“June’s a very, very busy month,” Barlow said. “After that, I guess it slows down, but it’s more that it tends to be business as normal. I think overall, it went smooth. Everybody had to group together to get things going, and we did.”
The next order of business is to find two new council members, bringing that body back up to full strength. Mayor Gene Price said he’s gotten two applications for each open seat so far, and will continue to accept new ones through June 30. Residents of the city’s second and third districts can submit their letters to city hall, or call 398-3530 for more information. The council will interview the candidates and pick replacements at their July 5 meeting.