Kennett Square Borough Council should continue what has worked01/22/2018 01:18PM ● By Steven Hoffman
An old saying goes, “To the victor belong the spoils.” As the Kennett Square Borough Council prepares to welcome some new faces and some former council members depart, I would add an admonition, “Don’t Spoil it.”
While it is often resented when a former office holder offers unsolicited advise to those who now have the important responsibility, I willingly accept and acknowledge that risk.
The Borough works quite well. It is not perfect but it’s quite vibrant and stable. As control of the political apparatus shifts, I encourage the council to keep in mind several things.
You are akin to a Board of Directors. You are not staff. Your role is very different. You set policy, while hopefully getting good input from staff, committees, a legal team and other resources. You should not interfere with staff or try to do their jobs. You inherit a good staff, so let them do their jobs, which will make you look good.
Learn, listen and do not posture. Be open to new ideas. Don’t critize your predecessors or feel it necessary to make your mark in the first few months.
Look far into the future. All to often councils think of only today and tomorrow, not 2, 3, or 5 years down the road. Think about the “what ifs.” Suppose the economy takes a downturn. Suppose a major local employer left, or had severe problems. Be prepared for the unexpected. Zoning may seem arcane, but it is critical and good zoning policy requires thinking about the future and possible new and perhaps planned uses of existing buildings.
Never allow discussion at meetings to be staff versus the Council. Don’t embarrass staff by asking “gotcha” questions. Give them a heads up so they can come prepared with answers or suggestions. If you don’t like the answers, that is fine, just give constructive input.
You will never please everyone, so don’t try. Rather, remember why you are there and be true to your values.
Don’t be reluctant to seek input from those who may disagree with you. At a minimum, you learn a counter viewpoint.
Don’t be swayed or coerced by the “noise.” All too often, these who complain the loudest are off base with half-facts, never lift a finger to aid local non-profits, the Borough, schools, sports teams, or support local businesses. I was always amazed that many of those who most vocally complained were never seen at festivals, parades, the farmer’s market, or local restaurants, but they had all the “answers” to what ails the Borough.
While there will be issues that divide seek common ground where possible.
Never succumb to arrogance.
You have the potential and opportunity to do a lot of good, but with that power comes responsibility—and the ability to improve the lives of those you serve. I wish you well and thank you for the time and effort you will expend.
Jeff Darman is the president of Darman and Associates in Kennett Square. He previously served on Kennett Square Borough Council for over nine years, including stints as council president.