It has been announced that Norton Bonaparte will be starting his new job as city manager for Sanford, beginning Sept. 12. I wish him well, and know he will do a great job there. In my dealings with him, I found him to be fair, honest and helpful in resolving my city-related problems.
I must warn you, however, to expect responses from what I call the “hate” bloggers—those who had a supposed grievance with him, or complained about something he did or said.
Bonaparte was in the unenviable position to be the first city manager that Topeka ever had, due to a change in its governance structure. So rather than being treated as the head of the executive branch of local government, he was treated as a pawn to the city council, with the nine elected district representatives directing him to concentrate his duties on each of their districts. Added to the mix was a “weak” mayor (due to the governance change), who refused to be weak, and complained about not having a vote, and due to some glitch in the new charter, he could vote on some things and not others. Of course, the citizenry wanted him to fix every pothole in their area first, and then complained to their councilperson when it didn’t happen.
So what’s a person to do? Less skilled people would have quaked in their boots, but not Bonaparte. He skillfully balanced everyone’s needs, and took the brunt of the grief for it.
I’ve only known Bonaparte through his involvement with certain valued civic organizations, and was always impressed with his demeanor. Although I work in the public library here in Topeka, we are not a city agency; rather we are considered a local unit of government, and get our own mill levy. My director also has praised him in the past for the cooperation he gave to her on certain occasions in city/library matters.
Topeka’s loss is Sanford’s gain.
In praise of the new city manager
Congratulations to the elected leaders of your community who chose Mr. Norton Bonaparte to be your next city manager. Congratulations also to members of the community who will benefit from his leadership in your city.
Mr. Bonaparte arrived here in Topeka as the first city manager chosen after a change in municipal governance. Anyone arriving as the first manager would have faced some real challenges in this job.
First, of course, the city and its leadership had to learn the functions of a manager and the relationship between the manager and city council. In the case of Topeka, these tasks were complicated by the presence of some on the council who were (and are) accustomed to micro-management and intent on maintaining control for themselves.
In spite of these challenges, Mr. Bonaparte accomplished a great deal as manager, especially in bringing a professional approach to the daily operations of a city. His calm and thoroughly professional demeanor always impressed me, in spite of whatever private frustrations he may have been experiencing.
There are many here who were supportive of him and his performance, and were sorry to see him leave. Those are the ones who wish him, and your community, the best in the years to come.