As we begin this blog, we will talk to the department directors serving our City to get a behind the scenes glimpse at the services they help provide to our citizens. This month we spoke with our City Manager Zach Walker.
City Manager Walker, how long have you been with the City of Independence? How long have you been in this profession?
I have worked in the local government profession for 12 years. I have worked for the City of Independence for 8 years.
What does Council/Manager form of government mean? How is the City Manager different from the Mayor?
The Independence City Charter establishes the council-manager system as our form of government. In a council-manager government, an elected city council serves as the city's primary legislative body and appoints a chief executive officer called a city manager to oversee day-to-day municipal operations, make personnel decisions, to draft a budget, and to implement and enforce the council's policy and legislative initiatives. The Mayor and City Council develop and adopt policies and programs, while the City Manager and his or her staff are responsible for implementing those policies and programs.
What does your department oversee?
The City Manager’s Office oversees all day-to-day operations of the City. While each City department is responsible for managing their own unique activities, the City Manager’s Office makes sure services are being provided and programs are being implemented in a manner consistent with the expectations of the City Council and the citizens they represent.
What is the most challenging part about your position?
The most challenging part of my job is balancing our collective expectations for City services and programs against the resources we have available to provide those services and programs. At the City, we want to solve every issue that is brought our way, but that isn’t always possible. We all want to get to “yes” when it comes to addressing the needs of our citizens, but decreasing financial resources, limited City staffing, and an erosion of local control from new state and federal legislation present challenges to balancing what is politically acceptable against what is administratively sustainable.
What do you enjoy most about your position?
The thing I enjoy most about my job is having the opportunity to deliver projects and services that better the lives of our residents. For example, I was proud when the City acquired and demolished the former Beauty Rest Motel on Salisbury Road and sold the property to a developer who built three single-family, owner-occupied, market-rate homes. This gave the neighborhood back to residents who live there. I am also proud that we worked hard to identify the financial resources to add 7 new positions in the Police Department to create the Street Crimes Unit. This unit has done incredible work in a short period of time to address issues of crime and disorder in our community.
What would you like the citizens of Independence to know about the people working for this City?
The employees that work for the City of Independence are some of the most dedicated public servants in the profession. Many of our employees have worked for the City for decades, and many are lifelong residents of Independence. This experienced team is dedicated to providing world-class municipal services in the most efficient, effective, and customer-focused manner possible.
Look for our next blog post with Water Services Director Dan Montgomery, who has worked for the City of Independence for more than 30 years.