Why rush Howe#8217;s exit?

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 28, 2007

Rather than push him out the door, city of Franklin officials should do everything in their power to keep electric department director Dave Howe at work for taxpayers.

The city took the unusual step earlier this year of launching a search for Howe’s successor before he’d given notice of his resignation or retirement. Now, the electric department is in limbo. Howe is out of work on short-term disability and feeling unwanted, while the city has suspended its search for a new manager.

A little communication could go a long way toward resolving the standoff.

Howe, who was widely believed to be retiring by year’s end, should make clear his intentions. We wish he’d stay for a few more years. He has been an effective public servant, running an efficient utility that has remained viable through two natural disasters. Franklin would benefit from his continued leadership.

However, if Howe is intent on leaving his post, he should say so now - and give a timetable for his departure. That’s only fair to those responsible for ensuring a smooth transition.

To the extent, though, that Howe’s retirement has been hastened by a philosophical rift that developed between him and city officials about a year ago, the City Council should work hard to mend it and keep Howe on the job.

Howe’s advocacy of an independent electric utility rubbed some in city government the wrong way. They shouldn’t be so thin-skinned.

Howe’s idea merits careful consideration. Among other advantages, an independent utility that controls its own purse strings would give its customers lower rates. Currently, electricity rates are kept artificially high in order to generate surplus revenue for transfer to the city’s general fund.

The City Council should encourage - not stifle - innovative, forward thinking from its department heads.