Howell officials discuss orientation tools for new council members

Staff Writer

HOWELL — Future members of the Howell Township Council could have their transition to a seat on the governing body eased somewhat through an orientation “tool kit.”

Township Manager Helene Schlegel said she wanted the members of the council to discuss the matter at their Jan. 3 meeting with the hope of eventually formally adopting the tool kit through a resolution.

“We have nothing in place to encourage [council members], especially incoming council [members], to learn about government,” Schlegel said. “You have to remember that sometimes when people get elected to the governing body, they may not have been around Howell very long.”

Schlegel said the objectives of the initiative would be to familiarize new members of the council with municipal goals being pursued and challenges facing Howell, through site visits, inspections of facilities and face-to-face meetings with the directors of municipal departments.

In addition, information would be made available regarding continuing education opportunities for new and veteran members of the council, the manager said.

Schlegel noted that some of these ideas have been part of past practices in an informal fashion, but said she wanted an adopted memorialization of such processes.

Mayor Bob Walsh said he supported the idea of a tool kit, though he said he attempted to facilitate his own transition after he was elected mayor by taking courses and discussing issues with municipal officials.

“I took it upon myself to do as much as I could to prepare myself,” Walsh said.

Despite these efforts, the mayor said he was still ultimately unprepared.

“I was as prepared as I possibly could have been, but I was not prepared. I don’t know how anybody could be,” he said. “Some of this stuff should be mandatory.”

Deputy Mayor William Gotto, despite taking a similar initiative as Walsh, said he believes an orientation tool kit for new council members is an excellent idea.

“It was a steep learning curve and we made mistakes,” Gotto said. “I think it’s an excellent tool to give to new people to be able to use at their disposal, because I don’t think everybody understands how complex the town is. To have some overview … is very appropriate.”

Councilwoman Pauline Smith was also supportive of the effort.

“It’s a big job,” Smith said of being a member of the council. “I’m glad to see something like this.”