Weep not for Mr. Herbert

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2006

Anybody who came here today expecting a lot of gloating and “I told you so” over Wednesday’s firing of City Manager Steve Herbert is in for a disappointment.

I take no joy in anyone losing their job. It’s a terrible thing, and as someone who has had influential people conspire to get them fired, I can tell you it’s no picnic.

With that said, let me state, too, that I do not feel sorry for Mr. Herbert. The termination of his contract Wednesday was almost his choice or, rather, had he wanted to get fired he couldn’t have played his hand any better.


Email newsletter signup

He, perhaps more than anyone, knows that politics is a tough game. He was here on May 2 like the rest of us and saw what happened. He could have gone to the election winners on May 3 and said something to the effect of, “Congratulations on your win. That’s great. What is it you would like me to do? I love this job and this city and want to commit 100 percent to working with you to continue to make it a better place.”

I can’t say for certain, of course, but I just can’t picture him doing that.

Instead, he used his final two months on the job to deliberately thwart the expressed wishes of those who a third grader could have told you were going assume power in city government by deliberately low-balling real estate tax rate reductions far below the stated wishes of Mr. Milteer, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Parr and Mr. Gardy. That was a big gamble on his part, and although he prevailed in that battle, the odds of his coming out on top in the end were not good.

Perhaps he chose to stick with his principles instead of pandering? Fair enough, that’s admirable. But rest assured there was an equal amount of pride at stake among the council members, who cannot be faulted for doing what he, in effect, was daring them to do.

Sure, had he followed that scenario above, there’s no guarantee the termination of his contract would have been averted, but had he really wanted to remain on as Suffolk’s City Manager, he would have kissed some behinds. That’s what successful politicians do.

I have no doubt that Mr. Herbert will land on his feet and likely do well. He’s a savvy, talented manager. I think Suffolk will do well, too. There are plenty of savvy, talented people out there who can lead this city and who will do what the people’s duly elected leaders want them to.