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Can Your Municipality Transition Successfully?

When a municipality loses a key member of its administrative team, it can be devastating not only to the Board of Supervisors or Council but to the other employees as well. The trickle-down effect can cause discontent amongst the employees and can spread to the general public. This can lead to questionable decisions too often made in haste. Although we would all like to think that we can handle these types of situations, the truth is that given the current employment atmosphere, it is not as simple as placing an advertisement in the local paper. The employment market has undergone a significant change in the last few years. Droves are leaving for greener grass or are simply burnt out and need a respite from the daily grind.

Many are looking to better themselves and are quitting their job in hopes of better pay and opportunity. The job search site, Indeed, recently revealed a survey of 1,000 workers who had left at least two or more jobs since March of 2020. A staggering 92% of those surveyed said the pandemic made them feel “life is too short” to stay in a job they weren't passionate about. I suspect those working in local government are not immune from this feeling.

That may explain why we are seeing more and more townships and boroughs looking to fill critical positions. The challenge for local governments, of course, is that funds are limited, making it difficult to compete for workers. It also makes it very tough to hold on to current employees. They now have experience that you have provided them, and they can go to nearly any county in Pennsylvania and find an opening. That doesn’t mean that they are a good fit, but desperation may cause hiring managers to make snap decisions so they can quickly “fill the position.”

Transition is defined as an act or the process of passing from one state, stage, place, or subject to another. A closer inspection of that reveals that not only are you departing from one key employee to another, but also you are most likely changing the way things have been handled in your municipality. Therefore, you need to think about a few things when transitioning between key leaders:

  • Is the board willing to fill the position? If not, how will the current operational structure need to change to ensure the responsibilities of the position are transitioned to other staff?

  • If the board approves filling the position, does the job description for the position need to change for any reason?

  • Has the rest of the staff been adequately prepared for the leadership transition?

  • Have you reviewed your salary and benefits programs?

These are just some of the considerations that should be reviewed prior moving forward with your transition plan. It can be a time-consuming process, particularly when a municipality experiences frequent leadership turnover. I have seen some municipalities go through at least five different managers in 20 years, while others have seen two in over forty, a considerable difference that shows stability for one and uncertainty for the other.

This is where a professional search and interview team can carry the burden of finding your township or borough quality candidates for your consideration. Keystone Municipal Solutions (KMS) is experienced in this important process and can reduce stress on the board and current employees by managing the recruitment and onboarding process promptly and efficiently. The ability to find a good fit within the parameters that the municipality has laid out ensures a lasting relationship.

When leadership transitions present themselves, don't be tempted to make the snap decision just to fill the position. Take the time to hire the right professional to find the right candidate that fits your municipality. Then, "Fire this thing up," and get on the telephone or send us an email so KMS can discuss how they can do far more than just place an ad in the local paper for your latest transition.


About the Author

David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 32 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.

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