Fletcher: Need to know more about candidates

“They gave him/her a job.” You often hear that when a person gets employment and it’s dead wrong. No organization gives away employment opportunities. Almost always there is a rigid procedure followed which includes interviews, testing, and documentation.

At Alpena Power Co. we are pretty much like everyone else in terms of procedures. Our average seniority within the company is more than 25 years and when we hire somebody, we want to be as sure as we can be about their character and work ethic. We determine our need, profile what a “perfect” candidate would look like, advertise the position, review applications, check references, look at academic records, interview some, test the prospective employee for various traits, decide if we really have found anyone who fits the position, and, only then, offer employment.

We probably have some steps that I left out. We know what production we expect from a job and we try to match a person’s abilities to our needs. This method usually works.

Voters in the City of Alpena have an election pending to fill two city council seats and we have five candidates for two positions. Generally speaking citizens probably believe that’s a pretty good set of choices.

“Just hold on a minute. What job do we want to be done and do the qualifications of the candidates match the current needs of the City?” You are probably thinking something like “What the heck, we never did that before.” So, why not start now?

We need to demand the kind of information from candidates that we do from prospective employees. College transcripts should be required and closely examined. The results, like George W. Bush having a better grade point average at Yale than John Kerry, can be surprising. We need to match skill levels with the complexities of the needs of the elected position sought. We vote for personalities and carp and moan when issues aren’t resolved by those we elected.

Alpena’s current needs are complex and shared with many other municipalities throughout the country. City officials face a declining population and declining real estate values, deferred maintenance concerns and pressures from wages and benefits in the face of that declining tax base. The problems are mostly of a financial and engineering nature. How do we fix those issues and get the area moving forward economically? I would think we need to fix what’s wrong and then try to rebuild the tax base. This seems pretty straight- forward to me.

If you go to a surgeon for a medical problem, then the answer is generally surgery. If you go to an internist, then the answer is pills. If you see the dermatologist, the rules are “If it’s wet, dry it and if it’s dry, wet it.”

Alpena’s problems require engineering skills, financial and accounting ability and a good working knowledge of actuarial procedures. Our problem in choosing from the slate of candidates is that we really don’t have very much information about their backgrounds. There are signs imploring us to vote but nothing is offered about their qualifications.

I know Mike Nunneley is a banker and knows about finance but I really have little information concerning the others. Cindy Johnson led the recall campaign and promised folks that “The rest will come out after the election,” but I haven’t seen anything. Councilman Shawn Sexton was angry that ex-councilman Nunneley was running for office but I don’t know anything of his strong points. I have no knowledge at all of the other two candidates and, although I’ve asked, I haven’t come across any of my acquaintances who have information.

I don’t think voters should just vote for them based on their gender. I’d like to see a detailed list of strengths from each relating to Alpena’s current set of problems, and how they would address those problems.

Furthermore, I believe it is the candidate’s responsibility to supply that information voluminously – preferably in this newspaper – so that I can study their qualifications to enable me to make my choice. What do you think?