Fenwick to search for town manager

For three years, Fenwick Island Mayor Peter Frederick and Councilman Harry Haon have performed many of the administrative duties for the town.

They have taken care of hiring employees, among other personnel duties. They have helped install a new computer system. And they have worked on the town’s budget.

\It is, by most accounts, a heavy burden for a council member and the town’s mayor to handle, but they might not have to handle it anymore.

That’s because Frederick is putting together a committee to define what the duties of a town manager should be and provide a small list of applicants for the town council to interview and possibly hire.

“The term ‘town manager’ in some towns is basically the town administrator,” Haon said. “We currently have a town administrator. What do we envision?”

Helen Torres is the current town administrator, and currently runs much of the town’s day-to-day functions and coordinates with the town council.

Those in attendance at the town’s workshop-without-agenda on Saturday, Feb. 11, agreed that defining what the town wants out of a town manager is the first step, maybe before even appointing a committee.

In some towns, as Haon said, a town manager is an administrator. In others, such as nearby Bethany Beach, they supervise all of the town’s departments, including police and public works.

And sometimes, Frederick said, the town manger is in charge of all of the departments except for the police department. Then, there are other situations where the town manager is in charge of the police department’s administrative duties but they don’t have anything to do with the law enforcement aspect of the department, he added.

These are all the issues facing town officials as they move forward to appointing a committee, and interviewing and possibly hiring a qualified applicant to be Fenwick Island’s first town manager.

“There are three options,” Frederick said, referring to the above-mentioned departmental examples. “At some point, you all need to decide what three options you want to have.”

Frederick and the rest of the town officials in attendance also presented three guidelines that the prospective committee will likely follow: (1) they will come up with a job description after town officials decide what they want out of the town manager; (2) they will provide a list of qualities required to do the job; and (3) they will present an “adequate” list of qualified applicants for the council to interview.

But debate at the meeting centered on who should be in the committee. Frederick said that while some council members have already volunteered, he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for all of council to be part of the committee. Council members also mentioned using a facilitator — someone who knows the ins and outs of a town manager’s position — to be on the committee. That person may be a town manager, or that person may be another council member who has been in a similar situation.

But no matter who else is on the committee, Frederick seemed as though he had already decided about one of its members. Since he has shouldered much of the heavy burden that the town manager will likely assume when hired, he believes that he should be part of the group that defines the position and gathers the applicants.

“The role I’m playing is to organize it,” Frederick said. “The committee should be people outside council. But I think I need to be involved.”