ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – At Wednesday night’s Mayoral Debate hosted by 18 News, one of the questions focused on the unelected position of City Manager, and whether current manager Michael Collins will stay on the job. Being the Mayor of Elmira is part-time position. A full-time City Manager handles the city’s day-to-day operations. While the Mayor is elected by voters, the City Manager is approved by the City Council.
“How would you rate the performance of City Manager Michael Collins, and should you win, will he stay on for a third term?” 18 News reporter Nick Dubina asked Mayor Dan Mandell during the debate.
“Thank you for that question, absolutely,” said Mayor Mandel. “Look it, the City Manager, when he took over, we had a financial mess just after I took office. What he did is consolidate the personnel department, saving us a hundred thousand dollars. He’s always accessible, he’s always going to events, he has a very good working relationship with all the agencies that work for Elmira. Absolutely I would keep him on.”
“Mr. Hassell, to you, have you selected somebody who could be your City Manager? Again, this is somebody who handles the day-to-day operations of the City,” Dubinas asked democratic challenger Jim Hassell. “I do not as yet, but I am looking,” Hassell replied.
Political pundit Dr. Stephen Coleman, who was a panelist at the debate, followed up with how Mr. Hassell felt about Mr. Collins’ performance since he became the City Manager in 2016.
“Does that mean you are not satisfied with the current City Manager, Mike Collins?” Dr. Coleman asked Mr. Hassell.
“There are some things about his work that I am not particularly happy about. I do not think he’s transparent, I do not think he is receptive to people very well. His style of management is not something I would be particularly inclined,” Hassell said.
“So, in your opinion, is it time for City Manager Collins to go?” asked Dr. Coleman.
“I think if I could find someone I like working with better, definitely,” Hassell replied.
“Is that a yes?” asked Coleman.
“That’s a yes,” said Hassell.
“But you’re leaving open the possibility of keeping him on as your City Manager?” asked Dubina.
“Well at least for the time being. I don’t know. I’m looking,” said Hassell.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet with the individual running against the mayor,” City Manager Michael Collins told 18 News on Thursday. “I don’t know why he believes I’m not transparent. I don’t know why he believes he doesn’t care for my management style. I mean, obviously, he’s getting that information from somewhere. I’m not sure who or what individuals are saying that, but he’s never reached out to me to me to talk to discuss, to ask questions. So, it’s his opinion, and he’s entitled to that, but I think it’s misinformation to the public.”
“If Mr. Hassell wins, and he asks you, hey, do you mind staying on for the time being, would you entertain that idea?” asked Dubina.
“Sure. Yeah. I mean, absolutely. I, you know, I think it’s very apparent that than I work well with other individuals. I think that whoever is the mayor, whoever is on counsel, I would hope that I would be able to continue to be employed. I enjoy what I do. I think I have been successful, you know, absolutely I would.” said Collins. “I thought the debate went well; I thought it was well run. I think that you know, we have we’ll see what the what the outcome will be on election day in November.”
No matter who wins in November, the City Council will vote on whether to keep Mr. Collins as the City Manager for another four years. The position can be approved with a simple majority, meaning at least 4 out 7 votes, including the Mayor. A new Mayor could also recommend a different candidate to the City Council.
You can watch the full interview with City Manager Collins below: