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Word Nerd

Interim city manager: agree with him or disagree with him, he's getting things done

I've been inclined to reserve judgment on Sunnyside's new interim city manager, Frank Sweet.

Jumping to conclusions based on hearsay or unexplained past actions can lead to set opinions that don't serve well in the future.

But he's been around Sunnyside long enough to get some idea of the man. I don't work directly with him, so I can only give the impressions of someone sitting on the sidelines, observing.

First off, I like Sweet. He's personable overall, and his contact with the media at least is positive. Personality is not equivalent to competency, so that's not really much use for determining if he's doing a good job.

In talking with council members in private, I've heard more than one of them expressing admiration at the job Sweet is doing. Regardless of the issues surrounding his hire, many of them seem to be impressed at the sheer fervor with which he's attacked Sunnyside's problems.

His management style seems to show a pattern. He likes to wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

As an example, Sweet banned the practice of city employees taking home city-owned vehicles completely, with exceptions only being made as it became clear they were needed.

He also decided city officials should first try to run the airport themselves before signing an agreement with the port district. Again, wipe the slate clean, start with the resources the city has and then build from there.

He's gotten a bit of static about those decisions, rightly so in some cases. But he's also listened carefully to complaints. He paid attention to arguments for exemptions to the take-home vehicle policy from the police and granted at least one of them.

He also gets things done. If Sweet says a file will be sent within 24 hours, it's sent. If a council member asks a question, it's answered at the next meeting. He suggested giving department heads a voice during council meetings and it has happened and been useful.

In some ways, it's hard to reconcile his efforts with his title. That "interim" doesn't seem to bother him at all. But as a resident of Sunnyside, it bothers me. If he or the council should decide to not make the title permanent, will his efforts be wasted? Or can he leave a lasting, positive legacy regardless?

I don't know if Sweet is the man who can turn Sunnyside around. I'll continue to reserve judgment. But I am impressed with his energy and decisiveness. And I like feeling that way.

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