The “Oakdale Administrator” case study is a description of a new city’s administration actions and mistakes that the new Mayor Hoffnagel made in an effort to make the city’s citizens happy. The case study outlines issues that a town with a population of 5,000 people and a low median household income faced due to economic decline and improper management. This paper aims to analyze the problems described in the “Oakdale Administrator” case and offer alternative solutions.
Oakdale has been in an inconvenient financial position for years. After becoming a city in 1994, Oakdalers had an opportunity to appoint a mayor and aldermen, responsible for all the major decisions. The first problem was that the Mayor chose to hire a city manager, without considering Angela Donny’s reputation as a poor-decision maker who was dismissed from previous jobs due to ethical issues. Secondly, Oakdale’s population was primarily lower middle class, with a median household income of only $47,869 in comparison to $109,345 in the neighboring Silver Lake City with a comparable population of 7,000 inhabitants (Cropf et al., 2016). Finally, the Mayor has shown poor financial management skills when working with the city’s revenue and expenditures and distributing its 3.5 million budget.
The Mayor’s campaign was built on a promise to revive the city and help new businesses develop. For example, one of his first decisions was to change the housing inspections policy. Next, Mayor Hoffnagel promised to work on the appearance of the local retail centers to ensure that they look modern (Cropf et al., 2016). In total, Mayor Hoffnagel promised to change many things, which is not uncommon for a political. However, in this case, the number of promises and the finances necessary to fulfill them made it impossible to actually deliver these projects. Therefore, although the Mayor has made a lot of promises to win the elections, it appears that he did not consider the actual work necessary to fulfill them.
This was an inappropriate decision because the Mayor should have considered the costs and other constraints of the projects he proposed. While these promises appealed to the citizens and helped his campaign succeed, when reviewing Hoffnagel’s actual decisions, it becomes evident that it would be difficult to implement all these changes. Perhaps, Hoffnagel’s behavior can be explained by his experience of working as a car salesman (Cropf et al., 2016). In this case, he inhabitant’s decision to elect an individual without a relevant experience of managing a city or a public organization is inappropriate.
Proper finance and fiscal management practices are essential to ensure that the city can operate. This practice aids in creating jobs, maintaining the city’s facilities, supporting businesses, and enabling an economic boost. As mentioned, the town had a small budget and low median household income and median household price compared to other cities of a similar size. Ideally, Hoffnagel should have focused on working with an experienced team to boost the economy – ensure that new businesses open, new jobs are created and that the city and its citizens have access to more opportunities. Gradually, this would help increase the city’s budget and fulfill Hoffnagel’s other promises. However, the Mayor failed to address the economic issues in this city. Therefore, this decision was inappropriate and led to further financial struggles of the citizens.
The issue of ethics in politics is one of the central concepts of this case study. The new Mayor chose to appoint new people to the critical positions in the city’s administration, which is an understandable action (Cropf et al., 2016). However, he made his choices based on friendship rather than professional competence and qualifications, which is where an ethical conflict arises. The Mayor knew Angela Donny for twenty years, which was the main factor he considered when appointing her (Cropf et al., 2016). However, Donny has worked in eight city administrations within the last years and had a reputation of an employee who does not regard equal opportunity for contract bidders and due process with requests for proposal. As a result, the ICMA Committee on Professional Conduct terminated Donny for this behavior, which led to the subsequent resignation of the Mayor (Cropf et al., 2016). Instead, an interim mayor and administrator were appointed to manage the city.
The decision to appoint Donny was inappropriate, both when considering the conflict of interest and the professionalism of this employee. It is evident that Mayor Hoffnagel either did not research her reputation and past work or choose to ignore these facts because of their friendship. As a result, Donny made some inappropriate decisions, including lying to the administration, which was inadequate as well. The decision to dismiss Donny and Hoffnagel and appoint intermittents was appropriate because it allowed terminating people who were not suitable for their positions.
The best approach to managing cities that have financial struggles is to be transparent. From the beginning of their appointment, Hoffnagel and Donny did not share the real state of things with the city’s financials and actual capabilities that they had to resolve some of these issues. Next, Hoffnagel made an inappropriate decision to appoint Donny. The best approach, in this case, is to work with professionals who have a proven record of helping small cities succeed. Financial management should have been approached differently, as well. It is possible that Hoffnagel had little experience when managing substantial budgets, and this is another factor proving that experienced people should have been appointed. Instead of fixing the retail center, which was not the city’s biggest concern, the money could have been invested in other buildings, to reinvent the city’s appearance. This could have been an opportunity to become more attractive for tourists and new businesses.
The issue of professionalism, as outlined in this case study, is not easy t resolve. For instance, as Squire and Beazley (2016) state, the World Bank statistics show that many public organizations, including cities, have issues when hiring professional managers. This is especially evident with financial management professionals. Besides, many “governments have committed themselves to greater transparency and accountability” (Squire & Beazley, 2016, p. 10). One solution, in the case of Oakdale, is for the citizens to dedicate more effort and attention to ensure that their administration is accountable for their actions. From the perspective of a professional, responsible for the hiring decisions, it is essential to assess the professional qualities of prospective city managers.
Overall, this paper examines the case study, the “Oakdale Administrator,” where Mayor Hoffnagel made a series of bad decisions, hindering the city’s development. The three critical problems in this case study are hiring a city manager with a questionable reputation, a small operating budget for the city of only 3.5 million, and lower-middle-class income of the inhabitants. In general, the lack of professionalism and adherence to the ethical standards were the main issues in this case study.
Cropf, R., Giancola, J., & Loutzenhiser, K. (2016). The Oakdale administrator. In R. Cropf (Ed.), The public administration casebook (pp. 80 – 85). Routledge.
Squire, S. J. & Beazley, I. (2016). Increasing professionalism in public finance management: A case study of the United Kingdom. World Bank.