If we had a nickel for every time we heard someone say “Government should be run more like a business,” well, we’d have a lot of nickels.
In Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, there’s a movement afoot that would make the most stringent believer in that credo stand up and cheer.
Both towns are exploring eliminating the elected positions of tax collector and town clerk in favor of appointing the positions through a hiring process rather than at the polls.
There’s been very little opposition in Naugatuck to a proposed Charter revision that would make the change. This is not the case in Beacon Falls, where a proposed ordinance to eliminate the elected positions was met with criticism during recent public hearings. Much of the criticism had a defensive tone to it, with some arguing that the proposed ordinance is nothing more than a personal attack on the clerk and tax collector and their respective offices.
It’s easy to see this proposal as a personal affront. However, personal beliefs have nothing to do with this. Plain and simple, doing away with electing the clerk and tax collector would be a business move that is in the best interest of the towns.
There are absolutely no political aspects of either position, aside from actually running for election. Neither the clerk nor tax collector can set policy or shape the direction of their town like a selectman or burgess. They are department heads, like every other department head. Yet, the positions are subject to the same political whims as a selectman or burgess for no apparent reason other than it’s the way it’s always been done.
By having the positions subject to elections, the risk is real that an unqualified candidate could find him or herself running a town department. Elections are fickle beasts, and often qualifications lag behind other less vital characteristics like name recognition or party affiliation at the polls.
Imagine if a Fortune 500 company decided to choose the head of its finance or marketing departments through an election every two years. Would you want to hold stock in this company?
What if the fire and police chiefs were chosen through elections? Would anyone feel comfortable knowing the people in charge of our public safety could be people who have never seen a fire or walked a beat in their life.
The fire and police chiefs are department heads just like the clerk or tax collector, but we insist on ensuring that there are qualified people to run our fire and police departments as it should be.
This is not a personal attack on any of the current clerks or tax collectors in Beacon Falls or Naugatuck. We firmly believe they are doing excellent jobs and would be among the best qualified candidates for the position if this change were to be put into place.
However, that might not be the case two years from now.
The move towards eliminating the elected positions of tax collector and town clerk is nothing personal. It’s just a smart business move.