Transitions: Trenton, NJ; Woodland, CA; Rock Island, IL and more

Trenton, New Jersey (population 79,390): The merry-go-’round at City Hall continued Friday when Eric Berry resigned as business administrator, and Mayor Tony Mack named buddy and aide Anthony Roberts as acting BA — the eighth BA since Mack was sworn in last July. Berry is rumored to be following former Trenton Public Works Director Eric Jackson to Plainfield where Jackson this week was approved by city council there to take over as public works and urban development director. Jackson served under former Mayor Doug Palmer before finishing third in the last mayoral election. With Mack, he served as assistant business administrator then as an assistant to the Trenton Water Works superintendent. Mack tried to name Roberts assistant business administrator in late January and hike his salary from $65,000 to $80,000 annually, and critics charged Roberts had only minimal managerial or supervisory experience. Read more at The Trentonian.

Woodland, California (population 55,468): 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 at The Reporter.

Rock Island, Illinois (population 43,884): After nearly a quarter century, city manager John Phillips is retiring Friday. Mr. Phillips’ successor, Thomas Thomas, of Macon, Ga., was hired by the city council and will take over on Oct. 24. Assistant city manager and public works director Bob Hawes will act as interim city manager until then. Mr. Phillips came to Rock Island in 1987 from Rockford, where he was city administrator. Outside of city hall, Mr. Phillips is a husband and the adoring father of two. He is an avid runner and is said to play a mean acoustic guitar. Mr. Phillips and his family will remain in Rock Island after his retirement. His future endeavors will include volunteering with YMCA officials at the helm of the Pioneering Healthy Communities campaign. Still in its early stages, the campaign will use funds from a federal grant to improve the health of people in the most impoverished areas of Rock Island through nutrition and fitness. Read more at Quad Cities Online.

Allen Park, Michigan (population 27,564): From a failed movie studio to the decision to issue – and later rescind – layoff notices to its entire Fire Department, the city has seen its share of controversy over the past year. But for new City Administrator John Zech, who took the position Aug. 25, the city’s struggles were part of what coaxed him out of retirement and onto the city council dias. During his contract, which councilors extended until the November general election, Zech said he intends to lend his fix-it skills to the city’s finances, helping to finalize budgets for water and sewer and solid waste, which were left incomplete with this year’s budget, adopted July 1. He also hopes to retune the current budget to reduce expenses after a recent Plante & Moran audit showed the city was losing $350,000 a month. Zech said his main goal is to make sure the new council after the election will not face tough budgetary decisions as the “first thing on their plate.” Originally from Detroit, Zech said he’s always been interested in helping to develop cities that have “drifted in the wrong direction.” He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Detroit then went on to seek a master’s degree in public administration from Ohio State University while working as a community relations representative for the city of Columbus. As his responsibilities and workload increased, he said school was relegated to the back burner and he dropped out a few credits shy of his degree, a decision he said he still regrets. He then worked for the cities of Plymouth and later Wayne, where he was city manager for 18 years and still resides. He retired in December 2010, but said he was convinced to leave his first-ever sabbatical after city officials presented him with the opportunity after former City Administrator David Tamsen stepped down last month to become city attorney. Though his position is only to last until the election, Zech said he’s confident he can make a difference while he’s there. Read more at the Times-Herald.

Southwest Ranches, Florida (population 7,345): Southwest Ranches is looking for a new administrator to replace the late Charlie Lynn, who died in July after complications from heart surgery. Lynn, hired in May 2009, was credited with steering Southwest Ranches through tough financial times and helping bring more organization to Town Hall. Councilman Doug McKay said he is looking for “someone with a strong backbone who can make the calls he needs to make” while being sensitive to town politics and residents. Mayor Jeff Nelson said he hopes to have someone in place by mid-November. Town officials want to hire someone with at least five years experience as a city administrator, preferably in South Florida. Applications are due Oct. 14 at 10 a.m. Read more at the Orlando Sentinel.

East Hampton, Connecticut (population 2,691): The town’s interim town manager is taking a leave of absence to deal with an unexpected health issue requiring surgery. In a letter to the council last week, Interim Town Manager John Weichsel said he is undergoing surgery this week and that the operation will require “a fairly long recovery.” Weichsel, 78, would not discuss the health issue, nor would he comment on how long he would be away. He said he will undergo surgery Tuesday at Yale New Haven Hospital, and will remain in the hospital for six days. In the meantime, Weichsel named Finance Director Jeffery Jylkka acting assistant interim town manager, saying his handling of problems relating to Tropical Storm Irene demonstrated that he is “up to the job for the period needed.” Weichsel’s appointment, five months ago, was intended to bring stability to the town following months of turmoil over the dismissal of Police Cheif Matthew Reimodo in June 2010. Reimondo was ousted by then-Town Manager Jeffery O’Keefe, in what the town manager said was a cost-saving measure. Reimondo claimed he was targeted for bringing forward sexual harassment complaints by three female town employees against O’Keefe. O’Keefe denied the charges. He later resigned, and Reimondo won his job back in a townwide vote. Weichsel was Southington’s town manager for 44 years, one of the longest serving in the country. He replaced Interim Town Robert Drewry, who was brought last November after O’Keefe resigned. Weichsel’s departure will be discussed in a close-door council session Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at town hall. The regular council meeting will follow at 6:30 p.m. Read more at the Hartfield Courant.

Truro, Massachusetts (population 2,336): Newly appointed Town Administrator Rex Peterson has agreed to a $100,000 annual salary, a slight increase over the salary of his predecessor. Town officials are still finalizing the details of the contract, a task that will be completed before Oct. 3, when Peterson begins work in Town Hall, Selectman Curtis Hartman, chairman of the board, said Thursday. The selectmen wanted to match other town administrator salaries in the region, according to meeting minutes of the board. Former Town Administrator Pam Nolan earned about $96,000 annually, Hartman said. Statewide, the average annual salary for municipal managers or administrators runs slightly above $100,000, according to West Boylston Town Administrator Leon Gaumond, executive committee president of the Massachusetts Municipal Management Association. The salaries generally depend on responsibilities and location, Gaumond said. Peterson has worked for the past 10 years as the assistant town administrator in neighboring Wellfleet. The town of Wellfleet has posted a job opening for its assistant town administrator psot and expects to begin reviewing resumes in early October, Wellfleet Town Administrator Paul Sieloff said Friday. Read at the Cape Cod Times.

Lonaconing, Maryland (population 1,214): John Winner, longtime town administrator of Lonaconing, died Sunday night at the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center where he had been a patient for a week, according to Mayor Jack Coburn. Winner was 73. Warren Foote, an elected town official for 25 years and a close personal friend, said Monday that Winner had a remarkable way with people, especially in heated situations. Both Coburn and Foote said Winner’s legacy is the town’s water system, something he worked constantly to improve. Eichhorn-McKenzie Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Visitation will take place there Tuesday from 2 to 8 p.m. Read more at the Cumberland Times-News.

Dewey Beach, Delaware (population 341): As Mark Allen was walking down the street to the Town Hall to report for his first day as town manager transitional liaison, he received phone calls from Commissioner Marty Seitz and Mayor Diane Hanson asking him not to report to work and that his start date would be delayed at least a week. Allen was appointed as the transitional liaison Sept. 9 in a 3-2 vote, with Seitz and Hanson dissenting. Allen then called Commissioner Jim Laird, asking him why he was told by members of Town Council not to report to Town Hall, and Laird responded to him saying he did not know why those calls would be made. After that, Allen decided to step down from the position. Allen said he signed a memorandum of agreement Sept. 16 and Hanson’s signature was not on the document when he signed it, he said. After Hanson was re-elected Sept. 17, Allen told her that if she did not want him to do the job, that he wouldn’t mind stepping down, but Hanson did not ask him to do so. Allen said Hanson was going to give him a tour of the Town Hall Monday. What bothered Allen the most, he said, was that he was selected, and then after the election on Sept. 17, “the rules started changing.” Allen said he was looking forward to serving as the transitional liaison and, depending what he thought of his experience, would have considered pursuing the permanent position. Allen said his professional background lended itself nicely to the Transitional Liaison position. He spent his first career as a naval officer pilot on aircraft carriers and spent many of his tours of duty focused in and around career-enhancing leadership positions. Concerns for Allen that he wanted to take care of included restoring the town’s finances. Allen said he also hoped that residents will start to believe they have a voice year-round, not just at election time. Hanson said Police Chief Sam Mackert will continue to assume the responsibilities of Town Manager until the Town Manager Transitional Liaison or a permanent Town Manager is selected, whichever comes first. Additionally, Denise Campbell, chair of the town’s marketing committee since its inception in 2010 and wife of Allen, confirmed that she has also stepped down from her position, as well as marketing committee member Jill Carr. When asked to comment about the three departures, Hanson said she has not spoken with Campbell or Carr and that she does not think they are related to Allen’s departure. Read more at DelMarVaNOW.com.

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