James White, Township Administrator for the Township of East Brunswick represented the Mayor-Council option available under the Faulkner Act and Christopher Raths, Township Administrator for Roxbury Township explained the Council-Manager option that is also available.
East Brunswick's Mayor-Council form (sometimes called the 'strong mayor option') most closely resembles Plainfield's special charter. Under Roxbury's Council-Manager form, the Manager is the true executive for the municipal government, while the Mayor is primarily a ceremonial office and presides over the council meetings.
Both men have deep experience and were complementary in their emphases. Raths is a strong proponent and very capable explainer of the strengths of the Council-Manager form, while Smith found the Mayor-Council form quite workable.
Both jointly emphasized several points --
government works best when both elected officials and administrative
leadership understand their role and function and 'play by the rules';
- Local government works best when policies are jointly decided by all responsible;
- Local government works best when those charged with executing policy do so professionally;
- There will always be personality frictions -- the point is to manage them (no form of government will eliminate them);
- Open communications are key to building good working relationships.
Their upbeat views of their skill sets and their particular forms of government (each of which is an option for Plainfield) helped me to see more clearly how dysfunctionality in Plainfield's governance is only partly explainable by the limitations of its charter.
Fixing that dysfunctionality will mean more than just 'fixing' the city's charter, but I believe it can be done.
If there's a will, there's a way.