Transistions: Riverside County, CA; Polk County, IA; North Las Vegas, NV and more

Riverside County, California (population 2,189,641): Riverside County Executive Officer Bill Luna is resigning his position as the top county administrator effective Oct. 4, county officials announced Thursday. Luna notified the County Board of Supervisors of his resignation on Sept. 15, and it was officially accepted Thursday. No reason was given for his decision. Former Executive Officer Larry Parrish will serve as the interim chief executive until a successor is found. Luna took over for Parrish in 2008, helping guide the county with its $4.7-billion budget through a recession that has been especially harsh in the Inland Empire. Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

Polk County, Iowa (population 430,640): Newly hired Polk County Administrator David Jones is scheduled to start on Oct. 12, county officials said this week. Jones comes via Tazewell County, Ill., where he has served as county administrator and managed a yearly budget of $56 million. He has worked for Tazewell County – population 135,394 – since 2006. He previously spent six years as an assistant to the city manager in Cleveland, Tenn. In Polk County, Jones will help oversee a $242.5 million annual budget in Iowa’s most populous county. He will also help make key decisions on how the county will weather lower property valuations that could cost several million dollars a year in lost revenue. County supervisors voted to hire Jones in late July. Jones’ annual base salary will be $155,000. He will also receive a vehicle allowance equal to $3,600 a year and annual deferred compensation payments equal to 5 percent of his salary, or $7,750. Supervisors have also agreed to pay Jones $12,000 for relocation costs. The Polk County job opened in April when former county administrator Ron Olson resigned to become city manager in Corpus Christi, Texas. Read at the DesMoins Register.

North Las Vegas, Nevada (population 177,426): After several key employees, including the city attorney and acting city manager, left this summer, North Las Vegas is adding a crucial member to its team: a new city manager. In a 4-1 vote, the City Council on Wednesday night ratified the appointment of Timothy Hacker. He starts next week. Hacker, the former city manager of Mesquite, was the only candidate considered for the position. Hacker will receive a $180,000 annual salary, plus benefits. His contract includes a six-month severance package if he is released without cause.  On why he was suddenly fired from Mesquite: I was surprised. It was a 3-2 vote of the council. Two of them talked to me about it and the three who voted for it never spoke to me about it. I was an at-will employee and the average city manager serves for three to five years. When you get over five years, you take some satisfaction. I don’t want to speculate, but the tough economic times just caught up with the mayor and City Council and they chose to release me.” Read more at the Las Vegas Sun.

Woodland, California: (population 57,080): Woodland officials announced Wednesday that Kevin O’Rourke, Fairfield’s retired city manager, will step in on Oct. 3 and serve as interim city manager there through March 2012. Woodland’s current city manager, Mark Deven, is departing Friday for a similar position in Arvada, Colo. O’Rourke served as a city manager for more than 30 years in the cities of Stanton, Buena Park and Fairfield, according to a news release. Following his retirement from Fairfield in 2007 after 10 years of duty, O’Rourke remained active in the International City/County Management Association and the League of California Cities. He most recently served as the interim city manager for Stockton, from October 2009 through July 2010. Read on The Reporter.

Lincoln Park, Michigan (population 36,248): City Manager Steve Duchane is leaving his job with the city. Duchane said today he accepted a position in Eastpointe and will likely leave the city in late October. Duchane has been the city’s chief administrator for seven years. Duchane will have a base salary of $105,000 and will receive $4,600 in lieu of medical benefits with an annual deferred compensation package worth $6,400. He is paid $102,500 in his current position. Duchane has been the focal point of controversy during his nearly 30 years of public service. He was fired in 2003 as city manager in Sterling Heights for falsely stating that he had a bachelor’s degree on his resume. He went on to obtain a bachelor’s in community development and public administration and a master’s in public administration from Central Michigan University. Duchane assisted in numerous collaborative projects with Allen Park, Wyandotte, and Southgate. He said he’d like to finish some of those projects before he leaves, including getting Allen Park to join the Downriver Central Dispatch in Wyandotte, which Lincoln Park and Southgate are members of. With Duchane leaving, city officials must decide whether they will hire another city manager, or go a different route. Councilman Thomas Murphy has said he doesn’t like the idea of a city manager while Mayor Frank Vaslo has said without one, the city could fall back into (a financial) hole. Duchane said he will help the city in whatever way he can in replacing him. Duchane has played a key role in several collaborative projects Downriver, Vaslo said, and he is a little worried that some of them may fall through without Duchane. Valso said it is important for the city to fill the void as quickly as possible. Read more at the News-Herald.

Clearlake, California (population 17,723): The Clearlake City Council voted at its Thursday evening meeting to appoint a new interim city administrator. Joan Phillipe, currently interim general manager for the Foresthill Public Utility District in Foresthill Calif. – located in Placer County – received a 4-0 vote from the council to fill the spot on an interim basis. Council member Judy Thein was absent for the vote. After discussing the appointment in a closed session that occurred immediately before the regular meeting, the council voted on the contract in open session. Bob Galusha, the city’s engineer and current interim city administrator, explained that in February, while Steve Albright was serving as interim city administrator, the city began a recruitment process to find a permanent candidate for the position, which hasn’t been filled on a full-time, permanent basis since Dale Neiman left last November. The city went through an extensive recruitment process, and in June had announced that Canadian Tully Clifford had accepted the job. However, Clifford withdrew later in June, as Lake County News has reported. Galusha said that in August the city began its second recruitment process, seeking a new city administrator either on an interim or permanent basis. He said they interviewed five candidates, three of whom were interested in the position both in an interim or permanent capacity. Phillipe was one of those three also interested in taking on the job permanently, Galusha said. After interviewing and ranking the candidates, the council directed Galusha to negotiate an employment contract with the top applicant – Phillipe, Galusha explained. Galusha said the interim contract was for six months, with an evaluation of Phillipe set to take place three months into the contract. If, at that point, it’s decided that it’s a good fit both for Phillipe and the council, “You could renegotiate the contract and do a permanent contract,” Galusha said. He said that Phillipe has a significant amount of experience in small towns, including time as city manager in the cities of Colusa, Colfax and Loomis. She also formerly served as executive director at the California State Sheriffs Association in West Sacramento, Galusha said. The contract that Galusha presented to the council proposed $65 an hour, or $11,267 per month plus benefits. Because Phillipe has been a past employee in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the contract calls for the city to provide a portion of her PERS contribution, which is 12.3 percent of the $65 hourly rate. In addition, the city will give Phillipe a monthly housing allowance of up to $2,000, Galusha said. Altogether, the total cost is less than what has been budgeted for the city administrator position in the 2011-12 budget, said Galusha, who added that there will be a savings since the city administrator position will have been empty for the first four months of the fiscal year by the time Phillipe arrives. Galusha said Phillipe will report for work on Oct. 24. He said she currently is training a new general manager at Foresthill. He added that city staff recommended the council approve the contract. In response to questions from community members, Galusha and council members said Phillipe had a strong record that included experience with redevelopment. Read more at Lake County News.

Gilchrist County, Florida (population 16,939): A longtime county administrator is leaving. The Gilchrist County Commission voted three to two late today to fire Ron McQueen, effective immediately. He’s been with Gilchrist County for 17 years. Commissioner Randy Durden says McQueen had an unsatisfactory job evaluation about a month ago…and some commissioners remain unhappy with his performance. A special meeting to decide how to replace McQueen has been called for a week from today at 4pm. Read more at WCJB-TV.

Madison County, Virginia (population 13,308): Madison County Administrator Lisa Robertson is resigning.  Robertson says she’s going back to practicing law. The Madison County native has been the administrator since 2006. There is no word yet on who might replace Robertson and when that spot will be filled. Read at NBC29.com.

Lake Elmo, Minnesota (population 7,328): Bruce Messelt is trading in the city for a county. Messelt, Lake Elmo’s city administrator since September 2009, is leaving that post to become county administrator for Chisago County. The Chisago County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved Messelt’s employment contract Wednesday. The county started its hiring process in July and Messelt was selected from 77 applicants. Messelt has more than 20 years of public and non-profit management experience, including work with the U.S. Department of Defense, the city of Tucson, Ariz., and Minnesota cities Moorhead and Lake Elmo. Messelt, a native Minnesotan and graduate of Concordia College and the University of Minnesota, is scheduled to start work Nov. 1 with Chisago County. Lake Elmo will hold a special meeting Sept. 27 to discuss the city’s plan to fill Messelt’s position. Johnston said the council will most likely request a list from the League of Minnesota Cities of people interested in filling in as the interim city administrator. Johnston said he hopes to have an interim city administrator in place by the time Messelt’s 30-day notice is up. The city council will decide if the city will conduct a search for a new city administrator itself or if it will hire a search firm, Johnston said. Read more at the Stillwater Gazette.

Lampasas, Texas (population 6,330): Pending the City Council’s negotiation of an agreement, an interim city manager could be hired Monday. A council member found Ron Wilde, a Cedar Park resident, online with Municipal Solutions, a nationwide staffing firm that helps city governments locate city managers and other personnel, Mayor Jerry Grayson said. The council selected Wilde out of a pool of three possible interim candidates. Grayson said he sees no reason for Wilde’s contract not to be finalized Monday. Grayson said Wilde previously worked in cities in Kansas and Washington. Wilde has a master’s degree in public administration, Grayson said. He also has experience managing a city with its own electricity distribution center, like Lampasas.  As the interim city manager, Wilde would run the day-to-day operations of the city, Grayson said. If the council approves the agreement for Wilde, he will begin work Oct. 10, said Stacy Brack, city secretary. Wilde could be contracted to work anywhere between six and 12 months, according to estimates by Brack and Grayson, until a permanent candidate can be found. The city is still searching for a full-time city manager since former City Manager Michael Stoldt was fired in late August. A job ad on the Texas Municipal League website states the position requires a bachelor’s degree in business, public administration or a related field, though a master’s degree is preferred, and at least 10 years of experience as a city manager or assistant city manager, including experience working in a city with an electric utility. Read more at the Killeen Daily Herald.

Stanwood, Washington (population 6,231): Former longtime Marysville city administrator Mary Swenson plans to attend her first Stanwood City Council meeting tonight as the temporary city administrator for Stanwood. Swenson is set to work 16 hours a week at a rate of $70 an hour. Her work will include moving the city through its upcoming budget process and labor negotiations, and the search for additional fire-fighting help. A contract employee with Prothman, a Seattle headhunting firm, Swenson plans to be on the job until Dec. 31 or until the city runs out of the $22,000 set aside for her work. For more than a year, Stanwood Mayor Dianne White has reported to City Hall most mornings to help city staff before she heads to her day job as a pharmacist. White, who is paid $1,100 a month for part-time mayoral duties, returns to her desk at the city during her lunch hour and then she’s back after her pharmacy shift ends in the afternoon. The mayor fired the city’s administrator in April 2010 because White decided the city needed a different style of management. Lagging tax revenues, however, didn’t allow Stanwood officials to hire another administrator, so the mayor stepped in. City clerk Melissa Collins has frequently phoned the mayor at the pharmacy to get her direction on a variety of subjects. At the end of Swenson’s service, White hopes to get from the new interim city administrator a report on administrative responsibilities and staffing needs, a development plan for each city department and a recommendation about how the city can better offer services that encourage economic development. Swenson, 54, retired from her job with the city of Marysville more than a year ago. Since then she has done some work for Prothman and the consulting firm Strategies 360. Read more at the Daily Herald.

Basehor, Kansas (population 4,613): The city of Basehor is moving ahead without former city administrator Mark Loughry, asking Basehor Police Chief Lloyd Martley to serve as an interim replacement. Basehor Mayor Terry Hill said after a special city council meeting this morning that despite some legal questions surrounding the council’s vote to remove Loughry Monday, the members had decided to move ahead with his termination. Hill said he would visit Loughry later today to collect his city keys and make arrangements to clean out his office. The city will also give Loughry a lump-sum severance payment provided for in his contract, Hill said. The amount of that severance payment was not yet available from the city this morning. During the meeting, Hill said he would talk to Martley about becoming the interim city administrator. The council took no formal action during the meeting, which was called for the purpose of determining if further action was needed after the council’s vote Monday to remove Loughry as administrator. Hill’s announcement followed a 15-minute executive session to discuss non-elected personnel and a 10-minute executive session to discuss finding someone to fill the duties of the city administrator. Meanwhile, Hill said the city would begin searching for a new permanent city administrator “almost immediately,” despite some legal uncertainties surrounding the council’s 3-2 vote to remove Loughry. Hill said one purpose of today’s special meeting was to warn council members that by letting their vote stand, they may be opening the city up to a lawsuit because of a violation of Loughry’s employment contract and a possible conflict with a charter ordinance passed by the city in 1995. The three council members who voted to remove Loughry — Dennis Mertz, Fred Box and Iris Dysart — said they were not concerned with that possibility, Hill said. Loughry’s contract states that if the council intends to terminate his employment, the council must provide him a written notice of that intent at least 10 days before taking action, and must also allow him to appear at a hearing to defend himself. The council did not take any of those actions before voting to remove Loughry, Hill said earlier this week. Hill said those three council members had still not stated a reason for their vote, and he did not understand what the reason might be. This past spring, the council members gave Loughry a positive performance review, he said. Hill said he’d been contacted by several city residents confused about the vote to remove Loughry, as well. If Martley is appointed interim administrator, this will be his second stint in that role. He served as interim administrator for more than two months in 2009, after former administrator Carl Slaugh resigned and before Loughry was hired. He currently holds the title of assistant city administrator, in addition to being the police chief. Hill said after the meeting that Martley was the council’s first choice to take over temporarily, though he wanted to meet with him to offer him the job before the council formally appointed him. Read more at The Cheiftain. The vote came after some city officials said that Loughry was getting too much health insurance coverage and had overstated the income from his last job when he accepted the position in Basehor. Loughry said Thursday that he negotiated the health benefits and that the previous salary Basehor officials looked at didn’t take into account benefits or a raise he was anticipating in Hays. And Loughry said the City Council broke his contract by firing him without giving him 10 days notice that the issue was coming up for a vote. Mayor Terry Hill on Thursday defended Loughry, saying his service has been fine for two years. Mertz called it an issue of fairness. Basehor gives municipal employees full health coverage but doesn’t pay premiums for their family members. Loughry said he negotiated the benefit for his family and asked Hill to make a notation in his contract later when he noticed it wasn’t there. A previous city attorney told officials after the change that only the council could amend the contract. For Loughry and Hill, the question is: Why now? Mertz said the benefits and salary issues have been simmering for a while. He believes the surprise vote was legal, even though Loughry wasn’t warned. Read more at the Kansas City Star.

Friday Harbor, Washington (population 2,120): Of its many claims to fame, the fact that Friday Harbor is managed by an administrator whose longevity is unmatched in Washington state is not  — widely known. But those days are numbered. After 24 years at the helm of Friday Harbor, retirement beckons for town Administrator King Fitch, and those plans have been set in motion. Friday Harbor Mayor Carrie Lacher today announced that Fitch intends to hand over the helm of the town’s day-to-day operations by the end of June, 2012, and that he notified town employees of that decision earlier in the day. Lacher said Fitch informed each member of the town council with a personal telephone call. Fitch’s pending departure will present a tough challenge for the town in the months ahead, she said. Even though calling the shots for the town for nearly a quarter-century may be enough, Fitch said the decision to step down is painful just the same. That tenure began even before Fitch was selected town administrator by former mayor Jim Cahail. Fitch, who stepped into the administrator post on Sept. 8, 1987, had been working part-time for the town as a building inspector at that time. Lacher said the list of accomplishments that Fitch put in place over the years is long and significant, which include securing of water rights for the town’s future growth, facilitating implementation of the state Growth Management Act, merging the island’s fire departments and overseeing several major public works projects, including the recent replacement of the submarine sewer line. By town ordinance, the administrator is appointed by and serves at the will of the mayor. Fitch and Lacher are currently working on a strategy and timeline for the upcoming transition. As for the future, Fitch, who will turn 65 in early January, said that he looks forward to having more time to spend with family and with his four grandchildren in particular. And though he and his wife, Pam, have no intention of leaving the island, Fitch said he looks forward to that day when he can also walk down the streets of Friday Harbor without making a mental list of all potholes, catch basins or cracks in the sidewalk that he needs to attend to the following day. Read more at the San Juan Journal.

Hyde Park, Vermont (population 474): On Thursday, September 8, at their regularly scheduled meeting the Hyde Park Selectboard officially welcomed and introduced new Town Administrator Ron Rodjenski. The Hyde Park Selectboard began discussing the idea of hiring a town administrator several months ago and began the actual process soon after. At the September 8 meeting, the board also appointed Rodjenski as Hyde Park’s Zoning Administrator and Town Service Officer. As a part of those duties he will be working closely with the Development Review Board and Planning Commission. According to Rodjenski, he was interested in the Town Administrator position in Hyde Park for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it was available at a timely moment for him. When the position was advertised Ron had just begun looking for fulltime work again after taking a few years off to be a stay-at-home dad. Rodjenski has roughly 20 years of experience fulfilling the needs associated with all three of his positions due to the fact that he has held similar posts in the towns of Richmond and Underhill. He has a degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Central Connecticut State University, and he moved to Vermont following his graduation from that university in 1988. While he was officially welcomed by the board at their September 8 meeting, Ron actually started work on Tuesday, September 6. He has already attended three evening meetings, one each with the Planning Commission, Development Review Board, and Selectboard, while also meeting the town road crew and Town Office staff in order to familiarize himself with the town and what’s going on. Read more at the News & Citizen.

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