Letter: City deserves better than managerial dysfunction

From: Mary K. Ferdon


Full disclosure: I am a volunteer with the Jim Lienhoop for mayor campaign. However, I am also a former member of Mayor Kristen Brown’s administration and worked for the mayor in the first year of her administration. My background is in local government, and having the opportunity to work for the city where my husband and I have lived for more than 20 years and raised our family was truly an honor.

Not being a Columbus native, it is often too easy to take for granted the vision and generosity of the generations of people who came before us and made this city exceptional. Their foresight, sacrifice, dedication and determination enabled Columbus to become a multicultural city with community assets that distinguish it from cities even three times its size.

From architecture to Ethnic Expo, Mill Race Center to the amazing youth athletics programs, the People Trails to The Commons, Volunteers in Medicine to Love Chapel, kidscommons to the Community Education Coalition, everyone in Columbus is touched in some way by this legacy.

This legacy was made possible by a kaleidoscope of government, private business, churches, charities and ordinary people working together toward a common vision. Anyone who has been engaged in such projects knows that even with a common vision, there are conflicting ideas on the path to get there. They also know that best results occur when leadership encourages communication and collaboration, removes barriers instead of raising them and recognizes the efforts of others over self.

I became the Columbus Community Development director beginning in March 2012 but left after just 10 months. I am part of what has become a long list of city employees and community service volunteers who have left City Hall as a direct result of dysfunctional management.

I am saddened, frustrated and deeply disappointed with the loss of knowledge, experience, skills and valuable relationships caused by the departure of so many city employees and community leaders. We have lost passionate people who had chosen to give their personal time and resources to community service or to spend their careers serving city residents.

Leadership has many aspects, but crucial is the ability to surround yourself with good people and then trust them to do their job. Loyalty is only achieved when the people who work under a leader feel valued, respected and empowered to make decisions based on a clear, well-articulated vision. That is how previous mayors have enabled the citizens of Columbus to achieve the exceptional.

Conversely, in City Hall today, leadership has been replaced by drama, disrespect, lack of common courtesy, intimidation, single-mindedness, failure to plan, unwillingness to champion the ideas or success of others, and lack of communication with direct staff, city employees, governing partners and community leaders. Columbus deserves better, and that is why I support Jim Lienhoop for our next mayor.