By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
The Albion City Council has the potential to look very different after Nov. 2, and in the meantime the city manager and mayor appear to be working through a rift.
As many as four new council members could be elected in November — George Strander, Betty Branche, Ron Gant and Thorland Bradley have all indicated they are not seeking re-election.
Mayor Joe Domingo is, and he’s facing a challenge from former Mayor William Wheaton.
No matter the outcome of the mayor’s race, there is one clear consensus among current council members — communication must improve for the city to move forward during a time of such uncertainty.
Gant held his seat for 32 years before deciding to retire. Although he said the council “is headed in the right direction,” he said he thinks any internal conflict and musings of the council need to be set aside to tackle issues such as job growth in the area.
“Usually when a new person comes in they have kind of like a vendetta — or I guess you could say a certain way they see things should go in the city,” Gant said. “I‘m not saying there’s a vendetta between the mayor and city manager … but a lot depends on how well you talk and how well you lead.”
Domingo and City Manager Michael Herman have been at odds about the city’s financial future before — last November, Domingo suggested laying off Herman and two other city workers — and a mutual agreement about it might be hard to come by.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a layoff this year from what has been indicated … but we won’t really know until Mike really sits down and presents a total end-of-the-year budget to us,” Domingo said. “And I don’t believe in that either because I’ll tell you something — every quarter in my book we should know exactly where we’re at. … We should know within $25,000, I would think, where we’re at all the time.”
Herman said his staff provides quarterly budget reports about a month after the end of each quarter, but it’s more difficult than just crunching numbers and making predictions.
“We have some expenditures that we incur early on in the year, we have some we incur late in the year, so part of my job and my staff’s job is to let them know that even though this is a budget report, are there areas of concern?” Herman said.
Herman admitted he and the mayor are “not on the friendliest of terms,” but they both have a right to their opinions and have jobs to do.
It is trust that Herman said he would like to see more of from the council.
“That’s the problem: I don’t think the mayor has confidence in me. He’d rather see things done differently, and he has his right to his opinion and I try to share enough information so he gets what he wants,” he said.
“I think if you talk to other council people, particularly in the area of the budget, they get pretty good information.”