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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Please manage to know your subject

Nope, nope, nope. County Assessor Pat Love says it's no big deal that, because math isn't her strong suit, she has flunked the state-required test for assessors three times. She's good at managing people, and that's what really matters. Where have we heard this before?

Love apparently has about a year to pass the test and keep her job. But even if she does, that won't mean much. She will have discovered what to study to answer enough questions correctly. That really won't make her any more knowledgeable about the fundamentals of the work done by the people she manages.

I've had some bosses in my time -- not just in journalism, I hasten to add -- who didn't have the first idea about how to do the basic functions I had to perform and they had to rate me on. It was even a point of pride for some of them: Look at me, I'm in charge of this here chain gang; I don't have to dirty my hands with the actual liftin' and totin'. Guess what was true about those bosses? They were so easy to fool; you could screw off all day long and lie to them about it, and they wouldn't have a clue. When I had a chance to actually become a boss, I became a big believer in cross-training, for "workers" and "management" alike. We can all back each other up, and ain't nobody getting away with nothing.

There is a whole cadre of middle managers these days who move from town to town, managing this or that group of people without any appreciation for what those people actually do (let alone an understanding of the towns they're in for a year or two before moving on). You've been selling insurance for 30 years? You've made furniture at the same location for two generations? You repair fire-engine hoses? Never mind all that, fill out these forms. And there is now a select group of executive superstars who take their bottom-line, please-the-shareholders philosophy to the highest bidders. If you want to know how that's been working out, just check the business pages.

I could do about five paragraphs here on how public education has been diminished by universities that instruct budding teachers too much on how to teach and too little on the subjects they will be teaching, but I've already drifted a bit from the original subject. So let's bring it back.

There have been many good arguments made in recent years for making some of the more technical offices in Indiana -- assessor, auditor, clerk -- appointive instead of elective. I think the case for that change is now stronger. 

Posted in: Blogroll, Our town