Published On: Fri, Jun 1st, 2012

Citizen's voice #12 Leadership starts at the top

By: Al Zucaro

After sitting through leadership’s 3 day goal setting financial summit earlier this month, it may take a year’s worth of weekly columns to explore the many important topics of interest raised.  So, because limited resources are faced with what may be unlimited demands, this weekly column will have to prioritize what observations and comments can be reported upon in any meaningful way…..To that end, your comments and observations are requested and welcomed.

Time is of the essence….

A lesson to be learned by our elected leadership is that no matter how active a citizen tries to be, the task of keeping up with the pace of city business and being informed on the myriad of issues is a near impossibility.  The average citizen cannot stay educated and aware of all activities in process on any given topic or over any given period of time.  We all have lives apart from what is going on at city hall regardless of how much an individual might want to be informed….and leadership knows that….

During this 3 day session, a goal of great import to the Mayor and Council members was to have a “strong partnership with the community.”  To this end there was significant conversation centered on how to have a well informed and actively involved resident who has trust and confidence in the administrative and political leadership and their relations with private people as well as public institutions.

A deserving goal not easily achieved…..

Recent history and lingering animosities have tarnished this objective and without some acknowledgement of these outstanding negative sentiments, resentments may fade over time but may never be eliminated from the public discourse.  A trusting electorate requires patience.  Whether informed or not, active and vocal residents often challenge political leaders and tend to exhaust leadership’s patience with a seemingly endless stream of concerns.

To some degree, the goal setting session acknowledged this real need.  Leadership explored ways to increase resident involvement with the 26 active city boards and committees.  The role of management was also considered in how to update and inform the citizenry on recent activities and data for any given topic.  But the issue of greatest import, at least to the Mayor, was to set in motion a process that will aggressively attack and address “misinformation” released to the community by people, press or participant.

Under the guise of educating the public, the discussion focused on providing management and staff the means and obligation to address  perceived informational wrongs and get correct messaging out to set the record straight.   However, if the political objective is truly to have a trusting and confident citizenry, delegating to staff such an intimate task can never achieve the lofty goals set forth by our elected officials….

Trust and confidence requires leadership and leadership starts at the top….

Residents, especially those more active ones, will accept facts and detail analysis from staff but as to the emotional objectives of trust and confidence, residents need to hear only from those representative voices who were elected into office to exercise good judgment and vote their vote as the voice of the people.   This exercise is often challenging, very time consuming, and can never be delegated.

When the citizenry’s emotions are raised to a group think or mob mentality whether by misinformation or not, only elected leadership can restore calmness and order to the process.  No administrative voice can achieve this result.  Creating a public information officer or even delegating this responsibility to the city manager is useless.  People need to hear from the elected leaders who are asking for their trust and for their confidence.

The most often heard phrase throughout the entire goal setting process was “funding” or lack there of.  Many critical city needs were identified.  These needs are clearly challenging our city’s ability to continue as the “world class” destination described in many of the city’s past and current objectives.  Allocating resources for staff to do what only the elected body can do is wasteful and misplaced.

To the Mayor and Council members, the message should be clear. Identifying the issues is only half the challenge.  You, as elected leaders, need to get out with the people and sell them on why your vision and leadership is right and their resistance may be wrong.  Methods designed to delegate this responsibility to staff, or even worse, to the citizens themselves, are misdirected.

Get out of the office, get off the cocktail circuit and go to the people.  Intimidation and/or threat of reprisal are the absolutely wrong ways to go.  These are not errant children.  They are the people that have placed faith and trust in you.  Love, understanding and appreciation of their interests will reduce the resentments and raise the bar to meet the lofty objective of a trusting, informed and active resident reaching across all socio-economic lines and areas within this great city, the City of Boca Raton….

Al Zucaro

See Al’s internet broadcast show on and visit his website at





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  1. George O'Rourke says:

    Good job in identifying our city’s “missing link” Mr. Zucaro; constructive dialogue between elected officials and residents. You are right, “it starts at the top.”

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