Originally published on 10/23/2014
The town of Ridgefield is a $130 million dollar enterprise, comparable to the total annual revenue generated by luxury brand Kate Spade of retail fame, or Derek Jeter’s lifetime earnings in baseball. Neither Jeter nor Spade would dream of making business decisions, investing, or managing their money without professional, skilled money managers and treasurers at their side. The risks to their “brands” and businesses are too great and the responsibilities are too vast to leave daily decision-making, financial savvy and oversight to amateurs.
The same is true of Ridgefield. Why should we continue to play Russian roulette with the municipal treasurer and tax collector positions when we can go into the employment market, recruit top talent through a professional HR process and hire the best for our town? We have an opportunity to go from, “whoever is elected is whom we trust with $130 million, to “whomever is best qualified and hired to be accountable for $130 million ”on November 4th by voting YES to Question 3, “shall we appoint the Town Treasurer, and YES to Question 4, “shall we appoint the Town Tax Collector?’
Here’s why YES to both questions is vital to the health and welfare of Ridgefield. Municipal Treasurers must account for town funds and all financial records. They must pay our obligations. They have the authority to invest our proceeds in bonds, trusts and other instruments. They can invest proceeds from the sale of municipal bonds or other funds. Add to these responsibilities keeping records, issuing reports, being proactive with advice, and maintaining technological excellence. Whew. Not a job for amateurs, particularly when $130 million is on the line. And not a job for “life” by virtue of automatic lever pulling at the polls when performance measures can be put in place, like with any other hired position. That’s right, real performance measures, just like employees in the private sector.
Presently, neither the Treasurer nor the Tax Collector report to the Board of Finance or to our chief elected officer (the First Selectman) of Ridgefield—the very person where “the buck stops”. No one has the authority to say, “do better”, or “provide another analysis”, or “back up your recommendations with rationale”. They have to take what they can get. Hardly a way to benchmark performance, or to run a top-tier professional enterprise.
Policy- and decision-making leadership positions are best “hired” and held accountable by direct election. Conversely however, technical positions requiring specialized professional expertise, such as Treasurer and Tax Collector, are best appointed and held accountable by elected officials.
The sophisticated requirements of Ridgefield, a $130 million dollar enterprise, from finance, to reporting, technological best practices and on gong accountability (not simply an annual report at a Town Meeting) demand a sophisticated professional as Town Treasurer and Tax Collector. We deserve the best talent in Ridgefield. Vote YES on Questions 3 and 4 on Election Day, November 4th.
Susan D. Cocco is chair of the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee, which provides this column.