GOVERNMENT GEARS: Acting again

Photo: Acting city manager Suzanne Ludlow. Photo by Bill Brown.

GOVERNMENT GEARS • BY NAOMI EIDE

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First in a series by Naomi Eide focusing on how Takoma Park city government works.

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Suzanne Ludlow is returning to familiar ground as acting city manager, a role she last held during the council’s search for new city management in 2012 and 2013.

Ludlow, the deputy city manager, took over as acting city manager on Feb. 1, 2015 following Brian Kenner’s resignation.

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City Manager Brian Kenner resigned in January. Photo: City of Takoma Park

“In practical effect, much of what I was doing as deputy city manager I still do as city manager,” Ludlow said. “I helped prepare the budget. Now I will be the main person preparing the budget…making the decisions about what is presented to council for their consideration.”

Ludlow now helms Takoma Park proposals, including the process for handling the Takoma Junction, which, she said, has not changed even in Kenner’s absence.

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Acting city manager Suzanne Ludlow in her office. Photo by Bill Brown.

“The process continues as it was planned. It’s a very well thought through process. We’re excited as staff about the opportunities of improving that area,” Ludlow said regarding the Junction. “How it gets improved is a community and council discussion that is still to come.”

Ludlow last served as acting city manager from Sept. 2012 through June 2013 following Barbara Matthews resignation. The process of finding a new city manager was delayed when the council proposed changes to the city charter.

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Acting city manager Suzanne Ludlow shows the unoccupied city manager office. Photo by Bill Brown.

“I think they want to go more quickly than last time,” Ludlow said, speaking about the city council’s timeline. “There hadn’t been a city manager selection process for quite a long time…so they had citizens involved in providing input about the qualities that they would like to see in a city manager, issues that they’d like to see kind of dealt with. And I think the statements the council has made to this point…are still valid and they don’t need to start from scratch.”

The city council posted the city manager position using the profile they developed during their last search less than two years ago, Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams said. Williams said because it is still early in the search they have not decided whether a citizen selection committee will be part of the process.

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Empty walls in the city manager’s office. Photo by Bill Brown.

The former mayor of Takoma Park, Ed Sharp, said up until 1992 the mayor did not hold a council vote. He (they were all male until Kathy Porter was elected in 1997) ran council meetings, set the agenda and served as a figurehead of the city.

Following a 1991 referendum, the council decreased from seven to six seats and the mayor gained the ability to vote as a councilmember, Sharp said.

As a council-manager form of city government, the seven-member council, including the mayor, holds legislative power. According to the Takoma Park Municipal code, the city manager is “responsible for the proper administration of all day-to-day affairs” of Takoma Park, including the power to “appoint, suspend and remove all department heads” at their discretion.

In 2012, during the search for a new city manager, the city council heavily debated whether the council should be involved in hiring department heads and whether the city manager should be required to live in Takoma Park city limits, which went against the city charter.

Jokingly dubbed the “Gang of Four,” those in favor of the changes were councilmembers Tim Male, Terry Seamens, the late Kay Daniels-Cohen and Jarrett Smith.

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Councilmember Male fights to keep the charter-change resolution alive at the Nov. 13, 2014 city council meeting.

In a 2012 opinion article for the Takoma Voice addressing the proposed changes, Male said, “I view these as subtle changes that strengthen the nature of our democracy, create a more responsive city government and create another check and balance to help our very good city government take one more step to becoming a very great government – one that matches its people.”

The proposed changes were eventually dismissed in a city council vote.

About the Author

Naomi Eide
Naomi Eide is Washington state native who spent her college years and beyond wandering the East Coast. She received her undergraduate degree from Providence College in Rhode Island where she studied history and music. Following a year working in corporate America, Naomi left her full-time job for the University of Maryland where she is currently pursuing her Masters of Journalism.