Open Forum: Red flags

Posted: February 14, 2013

As I read The Star’s front-page article Feb. 5 concerning Winchester’s city manager handpicking his new assistant, some bright red flags waved at me that come off looking like poor judgment all the way around this issue. They are:

 During a time of economic woes and higher taxes for residents, why are we reinstating the position of assistant city manager to the tune of $100,000? Where is this money coming from? This is the time to tighten our belts and get done what needs to be done and not spend money for unwanted or needed “extras.”

The city has already cut back on some of the well-used and needed services it offers its residents, such as reduced library hours. Any extra cash we have should be going to such things as this. Who determined we needed this position and approved it? Mr. Iman? Don’t city residents get a say in this?

Sounds to me like some other recent issues we, as Winchester residents, have had little say in the matter or were not listened to when we did. The federal government’s ideas on spending seem to be trickling down to the local level — definitely “wants” over “needs.”

 How, when there were about 200 applications for this job, did our city manager get to handpick a former “crony”? Nepotism, I see, is alive and well. Sorry, the interview committee was just a distraction or sham, as it had no power to select the person for this position. Why is this selection in the hands of the city manager alone?

 Why would anyone consider a candidate who last year resigned from a city manager’s position just 14 weeks into his job in the wake of his arrest on multiple charges, including driving under the influence of alcohol? His alcohol levels were significantly higher than normal!

This is an issue concerning “character.” It is said that “conduct is the best proof of character.” So, what does this say about Douglas Hewett? Mr. Iman? If your teenage driver goes out and damages your car while drunk, do you just slap him on the wrist and hand him the keys to the new Mercedes? The teenager needs to earn your trust again and be disciplined for his reckless behavior, not rewarded.

To be considered trustworthy one needs to be dependable, reliable, and responsible. This takes a long time to rebuild, not just a few months, when such poor behavior has been demonstrated. It is also interesting to note what first came out of Mr. Hewett’s mouth when he commented on what he was looking for in a city that Winchester met — entertainment!

Again, as residents of Winchester, we all know this city’s greatest asset is its history — date of founding, its buildings and architecture, Revolutionary and Civil War times, apple production (and its celebration), Judge Handley and his legacy, and such notables as Admiral Byrd’s birthplace and the home of Patsy Cline, just to name a few. We need someone who manages our city with this historical perspective in mind. The building of another great Winchester asset, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, certainly was all about promoting this unique and valued historical legacy with present-day application.

I, for one, would like our city officials to take off their rose-colored glasses and see this for what it is and correct it. For a lot of us, it is as plain as the nose on our faces. We are again being sent down the river full of rapids in a canoe without a paddle. This needs to change — NOW!

M.R. Heath is a resident of Winchester.