Appointing Enis Ragland as interim head of the Office of Community Services was a wise move on Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's part. Not necessarily because Ragland is the right man for the job, but because it's clear that Cieslewicz doesn't need any more headaches at this point.
For whatever reason, Cieslewicz has been stumbling badly the past few weeks. After defending David Denig-Chakroff for a year as he struggled to lead the Water Utility, Cieslewicz finally had to ask him to leave when it became clear things were not getting better. And the mayor was obviously blindsided earlier this month by a neighborhood meeting on crime that drew hundreds of angry west side residents.
All of that on top of having to give up his dream of streetcars in downtown Madison. You almost have to feel sorry for the guy.
Still, picking Ragland may be a sign that the mayor is learning from his mistakes. In the past, Cieslewicz has made decisions unilaterally, without building a coalition of support first. (The most famous example of this was his on-a-whim creation of the Department of Civil Rights in 2005). This time, although Cieslewicz is considering merging the Office of Community Services with Block Grant in the Planning Department, he didn't force the issue.
When he announced his choice of Ragland to succeed Dorothy Conniff, who retires next week, Cieslewicz noted, "I will take the coming year to discuss this subject with city staff, organizations served by OCS and other members of the community.... I do want to review the issue before making any long-term decisions about the future leadership of OCS."
Bravo. Not only does Cieslewicz avoid a messy PR debacle -- Conniff and others had already been raising concerns about the merger -- but he's taking time to ensure that whatever decision he makes is the right one.
Now if only he could go back in time to before he renewed Denig-Chakroff's contract.