Smart move by council

Published 8:23 am Friday, February 4, 2011

The Franklin City Council’s decision to relax a residency requirement for candidates to fill the vacant position of finance director isn’t optimal, but it reflects the realities of the difficult economy in which we live.

We agree philosophically with the city’s long-enforced policy of requiring department heads to be residents of Franklin. We require certain members of our newspaper’s staff, including editors and reporters, to be residents of our readership area. The belief is that citizenship makes us more invested in and more knowledgeable of the community we chronicle. Likewise, the city wants its top management to become part of the city’s civic and social fabric.

The problem is that the difficult economy has made people much less mobile. It used to be perfectly reasonable to give a new employee a few months to sell a house in Richmond or Hampton Roads, then expect them to relocate to Franklin. In the current real estate slump, however, houses can remain on the market for years before selling. Few people — especially those on the income of a civil servant — can afford two house payments.

The City Council was wise to lift the residency requirement for the finance position, which has been a revolving door of temporary helpers over the past couple of years. With budget-setting season approaching, stability is needed.

Without rescinding the residency policy completely, the council can make case-by-case exceptions when necessary to fill key positions with competent people.