Transitions: Fort Worth, TX; Washington County, MN; Winchester, MA and more

Fort Worth, Texas (population 741,206): By his own admission, Tom Higgins likes to stay in the background. For most of his 24 years with the city, he was the economic development director, working behind the scenes to bring companies and jobs to Fort Worth. As interim city manager for 10 months, Higgins lost his much-beloved anonymity, and the spotlight is expected to get brighter after the City Council’s decision last week to remove the “interim” tag from his job. Though Councilman Danny Scarth talked of Higgins having the “complete and full confidence” of the council, Higgins, 68, who will be paid $233,393.06, knows that Mayor Betsy Price has already said the city will start a national search next year. From wrestling with the city’s pension program to tackling long-delayed work on streets, then finding more funding once the current street backlog is eliminated, Higgins clearly has a lot on his plate. What’s more, he wants to see city employees embrace a culture change to provide more customer service to residents — one of the themes of Price’s mayoral campaign. Council members praised Higgins’ handling of a budget this year that included a 3 percent raise for general employees and no layoffs. But Higgins warns that next year’s budget could be far more difficult. The sluggish real estate market is one cause for pessimism, and Higgins said he expects property values to stay flat, at best. City staff members have begun looking at where to hold the line on expenses to prepare for another shortfall. Long-term projections show the city facing shortfalls in each of the next five years. Just because something is in the budget, he notes, that doesn’t guarantee that the money will be spent. Despite coming close to retiring three years ago, Higgins doesn’t sound ready to quit just yet. A noted early riser, Higgins is often in the office well before dawn poring over documents and getting work done before the phone calls and meetings begin. He keeps a notepad by his bed to jot down ideas and sometimes sits on his patio in the middle of the night deciding what the next move should be. He joined Fort Worth in 1987 as the one-man Department of Economic Development, helping to land the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing facility and luring companies to the now-booming Alliance Corridor just as it got off the ground. Making those deals work, outmaneuvering other cities, was all part of the excitement that fueled the competitive fire, Higgins said. And he still gets satisfaction driving by businesses or hotels that have brought jobs and visitors to the area. That experience should serve Higgins well as city manager, said Mike Berry, president of Hillwood Properties, which developed Alliance and worked with Higgins on many of those deals. Berry said Higgins’ attention to detail, calm demeanor and institutional memory will be assets for the city. But Berry said time hasn’t passed Higgins by. He can see the big picture and is good at finding new ideas for seemingly intractable problems, Berry said, mentioning that he was in Higgins’ office last week, talking about finding a solution to the perpetually clogged Interstate 35W. Read more at the Star-Telegram.

Washington County, Minnesota (population 238,136): Longtime Washington County Administrator Jim Schug announced Thursday he will retire early next year after 25 years with the county. Named county administrator in 1994, Schug began his quarter-century with Washington County as the director of the county’s Community Services Department. He has worked in county government for more than 37 years in Crow Wing, Redwood and Washington counties, beginning his career as a social worker. Schug, who lives in Stillwater, announced his plan to retire in late January in an email to employees on Thursday. He had previously informed Washington County’s five commissioners, according to a county news release. Schug’s 2011 salary is $150,065. A timeline for finding Schug’s successor was not made immediately clear on Thursday. Commissioner Autumn Lehrke, who represents south Washington County, in an interview Thursday praised Schug as “great to work with” during her 10 months on the board and said “his knowledge base will be greatly missed.” County Board Chairman Gary Kriesel, a commissioner for seven years, said he has witnessed Schug’s skills as a leader. Schug respects the employees and is a positive motivator, he said. Kriesel said the five commissioners will discuss soon the process to replace Schug. Kriesel said his “expectation” is that it would be an internal search. Lehrke agreed. Even those who don’t follow county government closely should appreciate Schug’s contributions, Kriesel said. Over the years Schug has made recommendations to the County Board that led to the county’s solid financial standing and its successful delivery of a wide range of services. Surveys have shown residents are satisfied with county government, Kriesel said. Read more at the Woodbury Bulletin.

Winchester, Massachusetts (population 21,374): The Winchester Board of Selectmen Thursday night unanimously selected Richard Howard, outgoing Malden mayor, as its new town manager, the board said in a statement. Howard was among four finalists for the position, and beat out officials from Saugus and Belmont, a list narrowed from 54 original applicants. In November, Howard announced he would not seek a fifth term in office in Malden. Also a lawyer who served business-oriented clients before his time in electoral politics, Howard had said he would explore non-elected public life or return to law. His departure marks the end of an era in Malden, where Howard has served as mayor since 1996, and a bump in pay. Winchester advertised compensation up to $160,000. Howard earned $114,400 as Malden mayor in 2008, the latest figures available. The other finalists for the job were Saugus town manager Andrew R. Bisignani and Belmont town administrator Thomas G. Younger. Swampscott town administrator Andrew W. Maylor was a finalist before accepting the town manager job in North Andover. In a phone interview, Howard said he would likely take the helm in Winchester in early January, after the new mayor of Malden is sworn in Jan. 2. Currently he and Winchester officials are negotiating the terms of his employment there, he said, including salary, benefits, and other standard contractual items. The transition will require some adjustment, Howard said, but was quick to compare the communities. While Winchester is less than half the size of Malden — at just over 21,000 — Howard said both communities share a desire for transit-oriented development, and more specifically, the remodeling of their high schools. This year, workers are completing a $70 million renovation of Malden High School, the last segment in Howard’s career-long effort to remake and rebuild the Malden Public Schools. Some of the key differences between the communities fall squarely along the population trend. The Winchester town budget is roughly half of what the Malden city government spends in a year. The political structure is also wholly different, and will mark Howard’s first step outside of an elected position. The transition means less hours during evenings and weekends filling the ceremonious duties of a mayor of a medium-sized city, Howard said — duties that he will come to miss, he said. Read more at the Boston Globe.

Cocoa, Florida (population 17,140): Deputy City Manager Brenda Fettrow last month became acting city manager and will become Cocoa’s first female city manager when her contract is finalized in the coming weeks. Fettrow replaces Ric Holt, who was the city’s longest-serving city manager, holding the job since 2000. The Cocoa City Council last month accepted his retirement offer. Fettrow was deputy city manager since 2008. She previously worked for 20 years at Brevard Community College, most recently as vice president of student services and interim executive director of the BCC Foundation. Before that, she was president of BCC’s Cocoa campus. Read more at Florida Today.

Clearlake, California (population 15,250): Clearlake’s new interim city administrator received a warm welcome at her first council meeting on Thursday evening. Joan Phillipe started work on Oct. 24. The council voted to hire Phillipe on an interim basis at its Sept. 22 meeting, as Lake County News has reported. Most recently she worked as interim general manager for the Foresthill Public Utility District in Placer County, and also previously served as city manager in Colusa, Colfax and Loomis. Her interim contract is for six months, after which the council could decide to hire Phillip in a long-term capacity. She has reportedly expressed interest in taking the job permanently. During public comment, Supervisor Rob Brown appeared at the podium with a large gift basket filled with a number of items including freshly baked bread, local produce and wine, gift certificates and tickets for local school sporting events, which he offered Phillipe as a welcome gift. Phillipe told the council later in the meeting that she anticipates “a very positive future” working with the city. Council member Judy Thein thanked Bob Galusha, the city’s engineer, who has acted as interim city manager for several months as the hiring process was taking place. Thein said Galusha won’t have to do double duty in the future. Mayor Joyce Overton said a meet and greet to introduce the community to Phillipe will take place on Nov. 10. Read more at Lake County News.

Lake Wales, Florida (population 14,225): It’s been a while since Lake Wales had a new city manager who was also new to the area. That’s why city of Lake Wales and the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce – in partnership with several local businesses – will host a reception for Therese Leary from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Nov. 3, in the lobby of Lake Wales City Hall at 201 W. Central Ave. Leary of Hilton Head, S.C., was one of two candidates selected for interviews for the post to succeed City Manager Judy Delmar, who announced last year that she would be retiring. When R. Dale Brown of Palestine, Texas, withdrew his application in late August after difficulties with a Skype.com interview and concerns of professionalism among the commissioners, the Lake Wales City Commission voted unanimously to offer the job to Leary. She accepted the job in early September and the City Commission approved her contract on Sept. 7. Her first City Commission meeting will be next Tuesday. City Commissioner Betty Wojcik – who is executive director of the chamber – approached Delmar about planning a reception for Leary and covering the costs with a partnership between the city and chamber. Local businesses such as Center State Bank, Florida’s Natural Growers and Lake Wales Main Street will sponsor the reception. Wojcik said they chose 4:30 p.m. to give people a chance to drop by and still take part in or attend the Lake Wales Literacy Council’s Spelling Circus or the Florida’s Natural Foundation awards, both scheduled for that night. Leary served as general manager for Indigo Run Community Owner’s Association in Hilton Head, N.C. She also served as city manager for Lake Park and Crystal River in Florida, as well as for cities in Connecticut, South Carolina, and Vermont. She hold a master’s degree in management and organizational development from Antioch University in Keen, N.H., and has studied with the New York University business law program. In her interview, Leary said she planned to move to Florida whether or not she got hired by Lake Wales. She described herself as a “consensus-builder” who would seek a team-oriented approach to both city management and public and private partnerships for economic development and recreation. Read more at News Chief.

Harrisburg, North Carolina (population 11,526): The Harrisburg Town Council voted Oct. 24 not to renew the town administrator’s contract and removed her from all town duties immediately. Five of the seven council members were present for the vote Oct. 24 at a regular town meeting. Jeffrey Redfern and Jeff Phillips were absent. The others unanimously approved the decision to put Michele Reapsmith on administrative leave with pay until Nov. 30, when her contract ends. Reapsmith was hired finance director in 2009 and was appointed town administrator in 2010. She said her departure was a mutually beneficial decision. Council member Bill Williams said he had always good relationship with Reapsmith, but he voted in favor of the decision. Williams said the council was “looking into some things,” but he wouldn’t comment further. A special meeting “to discuss personnel matters” in closed session is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 29, he said. The council could vote to take action on the matter, but any voting is likely to take place publicly, after the closed session. Harrisburg voters will elect four council members Nov. 8. Read more at the Charlotte Observer.

Wilcox County, Georgia (population 9,255): Tommy Higgs who was hired in June by Wilcox County Commissioners as county manager has tendered his resignation, effective immediately. Higgs said he cannot support some provisions of a plan that commissioners have unveiled for “expediting payments by Wilcox County to its vendors and service providers.“ In leaving the position he has held for the past four and a half months, Higgs added, “I would like to extend my most sincere and profound thanks to my former co-workers, the many new friends I have met and especially to the many citizens who welcomed and provided me with opportunities to really become a part of this great county.” When Higgs was hired, he was given a six-month contract with a clause for renewal if everyone concerned was satisfied. Commission Chairman Tracy Tyndal says he has received no letter of resignation, but was informed by County Clerk Paula Jones that Higgs turned in his keys, cleaned out his desk and told courthouse personnel that he was resigning. The contract, he said, does not expire until the end of November. Tyndal said the commission met last Wednesday in a called session, to discuss a plan for paying 201 unpaid bills totaling $336,000. When Higgs was asked about the situation, Tyndal said, the county manger responded that he was controlling cash flow. In the first two weeks of her employment, Ms. Jones was getting many collection calls, according to Tyndal, so she started investigating and found the unopened bills. Read more at the Cordele Dispatch.

Valley City, North Dakota (population 6,585): Outgoing Valley City Administrator Jon Cameron’s new job is in the Oklahoma city of Perry. The controversial city official announced earlier this month that he’s resigning after months of political turmoil in the city, but he didn’t say where. He said he would leave it up to officials in that city to make the announcement. Perry City Council member Shelbi Duke has confirmed that Cameron will be working there starting next month, replacing a retiring city manager. Cameron also then confirmed it. Perry is about 60 miles north of Oklahoma City. It has a population of about 5,200, slightly smaller than Valley City, which has about 6,600 people. Cameron says it’s about four hours from Dallas, where he has children and grandchildren. Read more at The Bismarck Tribune.

Loomis, California (population 6,430): Loomis’ new town manager considers Loomis a “gem.” Rick Angelocci began as the Loomis town manager on Oct. 13. He replaced Perry Beck who retired on Sept. 30. Angelocci, formerly the assistant city manager and community development director for the City of South Lake Tahoe, will be paid $110,000 per year, plus a $300 per month car allowance. Beck’s pay after 11 years on the job was $116,000. According to a report written by Beck, the council began the search process in May and received 127 applications. The search was narrowed down to seven interview candidates and then four finalists. Councilmember Gary Liss said he is very supportive of Angelocci, as are other council members. Liss said he was most impressed with Angelocci’s background in planning and in working on collaborative agreements with multiple jurisdictions. According to Beck, prior to working for the City of South Lake Tahoe, Angelocci spent two decades at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and held the position of Chief of Operations. Based on his planning background, he will also serve as the town planning director. Kathy Kerdus, who held the position, recently retired. Angelocci calls himself a “problem solver” and said he looked very closely at Loomis before applying for the job and was impressed with what he discovered about Loomis. Angelocci said when he was scouting the town, he stopped at Taylors for lunch and left his smartphone on the table. He said he realized it and feared the phone would be gone, but he said he was pleasantly surprised to find an employee had picked it up and was holding it for him. He felt the incident spoke of the character of the town. Angelocci remarked that Loomis had stayed true to its original values outlined when Loomis incorporated. Angelocci said he was also pleased with Loomis’ finances. The new town manager said he plans to continue the traditions already established for Loomis and stay on the path the town has consistently taken. Angelocci said he plans to stick to “slow growth, no debt, continue with sustainability. I hope to do as well as Perry.” Angelocci is divorced and has two daughters still living in South Lake Tahoe – Larissa, 16, and Sarah, 13. He said he is living in an apartment in Roseville and plans to rent for a year before settling in a more permanent location. He said his oldest daughter is a junior at South Lake Tahoe High School, but he may consider sending his younger daughter to Del Oro High School. Read more in The Loomis News.

Indian Wells, California (population 4,958): The Indian Wells City Council hired retired Beverly Hills city manager Roderick J. Wood as the interim Indian Wells city manager during a special meeting on Thursday. Wood, 62, has 40 years experience in municipal government, serving as city manager for multiple cities, including Indian Wells from 1989-1992. Land developer and former Indian Wells mayor Dick Oliphant suggested Wood, a La Quinta resident, for the interim position, Mayor Patrick Mullany told the 40 residents present at Thursday’s announcement. Wood, who retired about 18 months ago and is drawing a pension from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, will be paid $15,000 monthly. He is eligible only to work 960 hours a year. He will receive no other benefits, according to his contract. His familiarity with the Coachella Valley is one of Wood’s strong points, council members said. For his part, Wood said he recognizes he will have to figure out the issues quickly. But after familiarizing himself with the city budget and the city’s priorities, Wood said his next task will be to foster the public’s confidence, which has been shaken in previous months by the in-fighting among council members and the more recent controversy involving Indian Wells’ soon- to-be former City Manager Greg Johnson. On Oct. 6, Johnson, 50, abruptly tendered his resignation after allegations that he got resident Haddon Libby fired from his job after Libby publicly questioned Johnson’s salary and benefits. Johnson’s last day will be Nov. 4. He, however, has not been conducting the day-to-day city business. Mel Windsor, the city’s Public Safety and Personnel director, has been acting interim city manager since Oct. 7. Libby has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against his former employer, First Foundation Bank, and a complaint against Indian Wells — a notice of intention to file a lawsuit. Some of the residents who attended Thursday’s special meeting believed the council would address Johnson’s resignation and compensation. The announcement of an interim city manager took them by surprise. City officials have remained tight-lipped about Johnson’s severance package, which is expected to be disclosed at council’s next regular meeting, Nov. 3. Johnson earns $254,625 annually and stands to get a year of salary, and accumulated sick and vacation pay. Council interviewed four head-hunting firms on Wednesday and Thursday for the city manager search, but has not made a selection. Once a firm is chosen, the city manager search is expected to take as long as five months. Read more in The Desert Sun.

Viroqua, Wisconsin (population 4,362): The Viroqua City Council, Tuesday night, approved hiring city clerk John Severson as the new city administrator. Severson has served as city clerk for the last six years. He will step into the city administrator role, replacing Matt Giese, who left Viroqua at the end of August to be the village administrator for Cottage Grove, Wis. Mayor Larry Fanta announced Severson’s promotion following a closed session at the council meeting. Prior to Severson’s tenure as the city clerk for Viroqua, he was the clerk/treasurer/administrator for the village of Viola for 10 ½ years. With the internal promotion of Severson from city clerk to city administrator, Fanta said the city will need to find a replacement for the city clerk position. Read more at the Vernon County Broadcaster.

Van Alstyne, Texas (population 3,046): After nearly six months of searching, Van Alstyne appointed a new city manager. Philip Rodriguez was selected out of 70 candidates at Tuesday night’s meeting. He is currently the assistant city manager at Cedar Park, Texas and this new position in Van Alstyne will be his first time serving as a city manager. Mayor Kim DeMasters said the city is growing and she believes Rodriguez is the best candidate to help with that growth. Rodriguez will start his term at the end of November. Read more at KXII.

Grantville, Georgia (population 3,041): Grantville City Manager Mike Renshaw has informed the Grantville City Council that he will be leaving the city in late November to take a position as county manager of Camden County, NC. Renshaw has worked for the city for nearly a year after Grantville went without a city manager for about the same length of time following the abrupt departure of former city manager Scott Starnes, who was arrested on drug-related charges in October 2009. Grantville Mayor Jim Sells said that Renshaw has been “an asset for the city” and will be missed. Renshaw was recently offered a new one-year contract on a split vote from the council, but he opted to take the NC position instead. When Renshaw took the Grantville job at the very end of former Mayor Casey Houston’s tenure in late 2010, Grantville “had been without a city manager for a year, so there was a pile of work that was left undone,” said Sells. His last day of employment with the city will be on Nov. 24. Renshaw’s is only the latest in a wave of resignations by city employees. In recent weeks two electricians and the city clerk have resigned, for a total loss of six employees, out of a total of 23, in just six weeks. Sells said that he expects Renshaw to be replaced quickly. Renshaw said he’s excited about his new opportunity. He said he is most proud of the new “professionalized” police department. He said he and the city staff have also been working “to get the city in a position to take advantage of economic development opportunities in the near future.” Renshaw said he believes the city is better off than he found it. Read more at the Newnan Times-Herald.

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Transitions: Who’s in and who’s out this week

Tucson, Arizona (population 520,116): Less than a week after unanimously firing City Manager Mike Letcher following a series of management failures at City Hall, the council will discuss how to find his replacement. The majority of the council seems to favor a national search, but it’s unlikely it will be done before a new council is seated after the November elections.  Richard Miranda, the deputy manager who is now the acting manager, will likely be named the interim city manager on Tuesday. Mike Letcher, fired by the City Council last week, made $211,000 a year as city manager. He gets six months of pay and benefits as a severance, which is what his contract with the council called for. Read more in the Arizona Daily Star.

Tuesday night the Tucson city council began to pick up the pieces from the firing of the City Manager and move forward, launching a national search to replace Mike Letcher. In the meantime, interim City Manager Richard Miranda says the city won’t skip a beat. Only time will tell if it’s temporary, but for now, Richard Miranda is the man for the job. Council members unanimously passed a motion to begin the national search for Tucson’s next City Manager. It’s a process that will take some time. The cost of the search is estimated to be between 50 to 75 thousand dollars. Miranda is also eligible to apply for the position permanently.  And council members say no doubt he’ll be a qualified candidate.  As Mike Letcher’s successor, for now Miranda is focused on re-building trust. And the city says it plans to involve the community in the process as much as possible through things like community forums. The final decision will be made by the newly elected mayor and council after the November election. Read more and watch video at Fox11AZ.com.

Sarasota County, Florida (population 379,448): Environmentalists, community activists, business people and other concerned citizens found one thing they could agree on during a series of county forums last week — that their views had been discounted by former Sarasota County administrator Jim Ley. Nearly all those who attended a series of five public meetings last week to gather input on desired qualities in the next county administrator said they wanted a good listener and collaborator. The meetings, which drew over 100 attendees, will allow Atlanta-based The Mercer Group to develop a profile of the kind of county administrator the community wants. The new administrator will replace Ley, who resigned under fire in May after revelations of problems in purchasing practices. The process is expected to take a few more months. Other desired qualities that emerged were an interest in protecting the environment, strong ethics and the ability to be humble. Many also said they wanted someone who would allow the elected County Commission to make policy decisions. The use of a search firm to handle the search process is a departure from when Ley was hired in 1997. Then, the commission picked a selection committee to narrow the candidates, a decision that has since been criticized for not being open enough. Read more at the Herald Tribune.

Craven County, North Carolina (population 103,505): Craven County Assistant County Manager Jack Veit will step up to the county’s top administrative post Oct. 1. Craven County Board of Commissioners promoted Veit last Tuesday to fill the post being vacated by County Manager Harold Blizzard, who is retiring after 18 years in the job. It comes with a $130,000 salary. Veit, 30, came to Craven County in May 2010 at a salary of $95,944 after five years in Carteret as administrative aide, then assistant county manager. He was picked by Blizzard from 75 candidates to fill the job of retired Craven assistant county manger Ray Moser. Chairman Steve Tyson announced the hiring after an executive session at Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting with Veit outside and nervously awaiting the decision. It brought a wide Veit smile and applause from board members and staff. Commissioners posted the open position internally after Blizzard announced his intent to retire. They did not advertise the position for outside applicants, a procedure Tyson said was outlined as legal and appropriate by the county attorney. Veit is from Pfafftown near Winston-Salem and the son of retired teachers Jack Veit Jr. Kathryn Veit.  Veit graduated from North Forsyth High School and Appalachian State University. At Appalachian, he received a bachelor’s degree in political science and municipal government and a master’s degree in local government administration. Viet was sort of born into local government, to a father who taught the subject and with a grandmother who was born in the Stokes County Jail when her father was sheriff. Veit and his wife Meghann bought a house in Craven County in April. Read more at the New Bern Sun Journal.

Temecula, California (population of 100,097): Bob Johnson will get a base salary of $215,000 — a raise of roughly $21,000 — when he takes over as Temecula’s city manager on Jan. 1 under the terms of a four-year contract approved Tuesday by the City Council. Johnson makes $194,153 as one of Temecula’s two assistant city managers. His current post will not be filled once he succeeds Shawn Nelson, a move that will save the city $282,000. Johnson, 66, will earn less than did Nelson, 51, who is one of the highest-paid city managers in California. Nelson, who has been Temecula’s top administrator since 1998, took home $336,288 in 2009. A city staff report included in the council agenda found that Johnson’s salary is in the lower third of city managers in California with populations of 100,000. Johnson brings more than three decades of service in the public sector to his new job. He was Riverside County’s planning director and worked in Irvine and Pima County, Ariz., before coming to Temecula in 2006. Johnson’s contract starts Jan. 1 and ends Dec. 31, 2015. His salary won’t be less than 110 percent of the city’s next-highest-paid employee and he will not receive cost-of-living increases, according to a city staff report. Besides his base pay, Johnson will be entitled to: $11,000 a year in deferred compensation toward a retirement plan. 60 additional hours of annual leave. Johnson already has accrued 640 hours of leave. A benefits package worth $11,280 in fiscal year 2011-12. An automobile allowance worth $6,000 a year. He can get mileage reimbursement for travel on city business outside of Temecula and a city vehicle if needed for large groups, inclement weather or unusual road conditions. If fired, Johnson would get a severance package equal to six months’ salary or the time is left on the contract, whichever is less. He would not get severance if he resigns, is charged with or convicted of a felony or if he engages in “corrupt or willful misconduct in office,” the city staff report read. Nelson in June announced his plan to retire at the end of the year. The council picked Johnson in late July. Since then, the council has met behind closed doors to discuss Johnson’s contract. Read more at the Press-Enterprise.

Cleveland County, North Carolina (population 98,078): After more than three decades serving Cleveland County, drawing in thousands of jobs along with billions of dollars in investment, County Manager David Dear announced Tuesday his plans to retire at year’s end. Dear has served as county manager since 2004, bringing in industry despite the recession and leading economic development efforts. Dear wrote that he will still be active in the community, making himself available both before and after retirement to help the county government through the challenges that lie ahead. Board of Commissioners Chairman Johnny Hutchins said Dear will be missed, but Hutchins did not wish to comment on who will take Dear’s place. Eddie Bailes is Cleveland County’s assistant manager. Hutchins said commissioners will meet on Sept. 14 to discuss the course of action following Dear’s retirement. Read more at the Shelby Star.

Yakima, Washington (population 91,196): Don Cooper, Yakima’s first new manager in 32 years, was sworn in September 6 and his first official comment from his seat at the City Council table had to do with the budget. It is a sign of things to come for the new administrator at City Hall. Cooper was hired in part for his budget expertise, and next year’s budget will give him plenty of opportunity to demonstrate those skills. The city faces a projected shortfall of more than $1 million, due largely to rising expenses and flat revenue. Cooper succeeds Dick Zais, who retired in July after a 38-year tenure with the city. Cooper has said he expects to spend the first few weeks getting acquainted with city staffers and the community’s major players. But it won’t be too long before he dives into major projects, including hiring a new police chief, he said. Cooper, 61, said he is looking toward a year-end deadline to hire a new chief. He said he wants to advertise for applicants soon to start that process. Cooper, who will earn $155,000 as city manager, arrived in Yakima late the prior week. He spent that weekend driving around the different neighborhoods and visited the Yakima Farmers Market on Sunday. Read more at the Yakima Herald.

Luna County, New Mexico (population 25,095): Luna County commissioners have instructed staff to begin arranging interviews with eight county manager’s position applicants, but the board is not releasing the names until the interviewees confirm they’re still interested. A review committee, with five members from the general public, has submitted four recommendations and one alternate to the commission. Commissioners have stressed the review panel recommendations are just that, recommendations. The Deming Headlight (http://bit.ly/nwfZBQ ) reports the commission is not bound in any way to follow the advice of the review committee. Commissioners have also insisted there is no planned deadline to fill the position left by the July firing of former manager John Sutherland Jr. From the Republic.

Elk River, Minnesota (population 22,974): The Elk River City Council has voted to offer the city administrator job to Kevin Lahner. The unanimous decision came Thursday night, Sept. 8, after the council interviewed Lahner and three other finalists, Calvin Portner, David Minke and James Hurm. Sharon Klumpp, a consultant with Springsted Inc. who is helping the city with the administrator search, will negotiate with Lahner on salary and other details and report back. If Lahner declines the position, the council agreed Portner would be the next choice. He is the administrative services director for the city of Plymouth, Minn.
Lahner is a native of Eau Claire, Wis. He has been city administrator in Burlington, Wis. since 2008. Prior to that he was the interim city manager and assistant city manager in Keller, Texas. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master of public administration. Lahner was one of 71 applicants for the position, which opened up when former City Administrator Lori Johnson resigned in June. Read at the Elk River Star News.

Lake Wales, Florida (population 14,225): The Lake Wales City Commission has passed on former Lady Lake town manager James Coleman and former town planner Judith Jankosky for the job of Lake Wales city manager, opting instead to hire another recognizable face in the area. Commissioners have given the job to Therese “Terry” Leary, who has been a city manager in Crystal River and Lake Park, near West Palm Beach. She is also known to Lady Lake because she was a candidate last year for the town manager’s job there. Leary, of Hilton Head, S.C., was one of three top finalists for the Lake Wales job, along with a man from Auburndale and a man from Palestine, Texas. Commissioners said they were going to interview the top three candidates, and if none rose to the top, they would move on the next five candidates, including Coleman and Jankosky. But both the Auburndale and Texas candidates bowed out, and the commission hired Leary. Read more at the Daily Commercial.

Salem, Missouri (population 4,854): Clayton Lucas said the opportunity was just too good to pass up. Lucas, who has served as Lindsay California’s (population 11,768) full-time assistant city manager for the past four months, said he recently accepted an offer to become the city manager of Salem, a small town in southern Missouri about 120 miles away from St. Louis. A lot of Lucas’ family live in the area, and he said southern Missouri has always been one of his and his wife’s favorite vacation spots. Lucas said he applied for the job in early July and accepted an offer made by Salem’s Board of Alderman, equivalent to a city council, on Aug. 29. He said the Board of Alderman unanimously voted Tuesday night to accept his contract. Lucas was made aware of the job opening by his brother, Jerry, who lives in Tulsa, Okla. Lucas said the current state of Lindsay, where a citizens’ effort to recall all five members of the City Council is underway and city staffers have regularly been criticized for what they earn, did not factor into his decision to leave. Lucas is the fifth person in 10 months to pack his bags and leave City Hall. Former City Manager Scot Townsend resigned in early November, former Finance Director Kenny Walker took a medical retirement in mid-November, former Councilwoman Suzi Picaso stepped down from the dais in mid-December and former Assistant City Manager Kindon Meik resigned in early March. Lucas started with the City of Lindsay in 2000 as a planning intern. He was appointed as the assistant city planner in early 2001. The following year, he took a job with the City of Farmersville as a management analyst. In 2003, he was selected to take part in a federal police program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice. After completing the program, he served for four years as a police officer in St. George, Utah. Over the course of his last year in St. George, he was a city planner and a reserve officer. Lucas returned to Lindsay in 2007 as a management analyst. He became a reserve officer with the city’s Department of Public Safety in October 2007. Three months later, he went to work full time with the department before being promoted to sergeant in July 2008. He became the interim assistant city manager in November and was appointed in May to head up the position permanently. Lucas is currently working on obtaining a master’s degree in public administration from Penn State University’s online World Campus. Lucas received bachelor’s degrees in geography and urban planning from California State University, Fresno. Read more at Recorder Online.

Palmer, Massachusetts (population 10,468): The Town Council, in a majority vote at its meeting last Thursday night, chose Donald I. Jacobs of Holden as Palmer’s next town manager. Jacobs has worked as a consultant for the last 12 years, but previously was the town manager in Plymouth and Southbridge. Charles T. Blanchard has been serving as interim town manager for the past two months; prior to that, former executive assistant Patricia A. Kennedy assumed the acting role. She took over after Matthew S. Streeter was fired by the council in June 2010. His predecessor, Richard Fitzgerald, was terminated by the council in April 2008. Read more on MassLive.com.

Ocean City, Maryland (population 10,289) In closed-door meetings last Thursday night and this morning, a slim majority of the Ocean City Council voted to ask City Manager Dennis Dare to resign by 5 p.m. last Friday and to fire him if he does not. Councilman Jim Hall said the council voted 4-3 Thursday afternoon to ask Dare to resign his position, which he’s held since 1990. Hall said it was a tough decision, but the council majority wants Dare replaced because “it’s time to take the town in a new direction.” Ocean City’s code gives the council sole authority to hire and fire city managers, the town attorney, its clerk and its auditor; the mayor has a vote in the hiring of police chiefs, but not city managers. In exchange for his resignation, the council majority said they would pay Dare through Dec. 31 of this year, and honor any of his benefits, including a full 30-year retirement package and health pension. Dare is operating on a yearly contract with the town which was renewed automatically in April. Jim Hall said they would honor it “and pay accordingly” in the event of a firing. The contract would allow Dare to be paid his salary in full for 120 days after the contract’s termination. Read more at DelmarvaNow.com.

Orland, California (population 7,291): Orland may be interviewing someone later this month to serve as an interim-city manager, buying time to find a permanent replacement for Paul Poczobut Jr. Poczobut, who one city source said was ill, did not attend the meeting, prompting Councilman Bruce Roundy to suggest he be placed on leave until his contract expires Nov. 1. New City Attorney Greg Einhorn is to discuss leave options with Poczobut in the near future, officials said. However, the city does not want to pay an extensive severance package to Poczobut by releasing him before the contract ends. The council voted not to renew Poczobut’s contract following a closed session performance review on Aug. 15. In the meantime, Vice Mayor Wade Elliott has spoken to a retired city administrator from Winters who worked for Orland temporarily about 10 years ago. Elliott said Gail Wingard would be willing to talk with the council about running the city for a short period — even on a part-time basis. Council members believe it could take up to five months to find suitable candidates. Councilman Charles Gee said there are at least two retired city managers in Chico who could be contacted for an interim appointment as well. Also the interim manager would not have to be at City Hall every day, Gee said. Elliott said Wingard might also be willing to be a consultant to provide advice to Crook on issues. He plans to talk with Wingard further and set up a closed session meeting with the council sometime in September. Read more at the Orland Press Register.

Kittery, Maine (population 5,359): The Town Council was expected Monday to appoint a former Topsham town manager as its interim town manager. Town Manager Jon Carter is leaving in two weeks to take his old job as Wells town manager. The council, which has met in executive session to discuss proposals by professional recruiting firms, chose to enter into an agreement with Eaton Peabody Consulting Group of Augusta. According to the agreement the council is expected to sign today, former Topsham Town Manager James Ashe will be appointed on an interim basis upon Carter’s departure. Ashe, who served as superintendent of Brunswick schools before heading to Topsham, worked as town manager for three years, leaving last December. He will work for the town up to three days a week and will attend council meetings. He will be paid a per-diem rate of $400. Don Gerrish, retired town manager of Brunswick, will work on the search for a new town manager. Both Gerrish and Ashe are independent contractors working for Eaton Peabody. The contract between Eaton Peabody and the town for recruitment services is for $4,500, plus expenses. Gerrish said Friday that a search “typically takes two to 2½ months.” Eaton Peabody will advertise in publications of the International City Managers Association and the Maine Municipal Association. It will review all the applications and cull out the most qualified candidates for the town. Once a candidate has been chosen, it may be necessary for that person to give up to a month’s notice, he said. Read more at Seacoast Online.
High Springs, Florida (population 3,863): A woman with multiple degrees, including a bachelor’s in Growth Management, a minor in Economics and a doctorate in Law, is the sole remaining finalist for the city manager position in High Springs. The City Commission had chosen five candidates, then narrowed the list to two. But after one of the finalists accepted a job elsewhere, the list had narrowed to just one person – Judith Jankosky, the current assistant city administrator for Arcadia, a city similar in population size to High Springs. Jankosky will be interviewed by the High Springs City Commission at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, followed by a meet-and-greet where residents can talk with Jankosky personally. High Springs’ elected leaders had made a point that they wanted to find a city manager candidate with extensive knowledge in how to attract businesses and a solid background in crafting a city budget. In Jankosky’s 58-page presentation, she emphasized her experience in those areas and said she excelled at getting diverse groups of people to work together for a common goal. In Arcadia, she not only is the assistant city administrator but also is the airport director and the Economic Development director. Read more at the North Florida Herald.Carmel-by-the-Sea, California (population 3,722): Santa Barbara County’s assistant county administrator was named city administrator of Carmel by-the-Sea on Tuesday by unanimous vote of the City Council. Jason Stilwell was the council’s “unanimous first choice” for the job, said Councilman Ken Talmadge. Stilwell will assume his duties Sept. 28. The employment agreement approved by the council includes a $175,000 annual salary, $350 monthly auto allowance, a $550 monthly contribution to a tax-deferred compensation account for a total of $185,800 a year, as well as health, dental, vision and life insurance and retirement benefits. Stilwell, whose duties included serving as Santa Barbara County’s budget director and financial officer, was previously director of the county’s parks department and project manager in the county executive’s office. He is an adjunct professor of public policy at CSU Northridge’s Tseng College. Prior to working in Santa Barbara County, Stilwell was assistant town manager of Superior, Colo. and a management intern in Thornton, Colo. He holds a doctorate from the University of Colorado at Denver, a master’s degree in public administration from San Jose State University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The council approved $15,000 in relocation expenses for Stilwell’s move from Santa Barbara to Carmel. Carmel had been without a permanent city administrator since Rich Guillen retired at the end of March. On April 19, John Goss, former city manager in Alameda and Chula Vista, was named interim city administrator. Read the story in the Monterey County Herald.

Cottonwood Shores, Texas (population 1,210): The City Council’s decision last week to let go of City Administrator Jerrial Wafer after only three months on the job ends a tumultuous term marked by repeated disagreements with Mayor Janelle Long, officials said. Long on Sept. 2 said those disputes often “got ugly.” Four council members voted in favor of terminating Long’s employment and one abstained during a meeting Sept. 1. A new city administrator will have to be appointed, but there are no candidates for now, Long said. Though Wafer was not available for comment, minutes from earlier council meetings show he complained that Long was hostile to him. He voiced many of his own misgivings about the mayor at an Aug. 18 council meeting. According to the minutes, Wafer discussed seven sections of complaints, which included statements about inexperienced personnel and a computer system in which “nothing works.” In a harbinger of the clash that would lead to his suspension, Wafer claimed Long “creates a hostile work environment” and “needs to be more of a cheerleader rather than a critic.” Wafer’s dismissal actually began to take shape Aug. 26 when the mayor told him she was placing Wafer on paid administrative leave. He remained in that capacity until Sept. 1, when the council permanently dismissed Wafer. Long said she suspended Wafer because of disputes over management styles and because he lacked the dedication and know-how to fulfill the duties of a city administrator. Wafer’s dismissal is the latest in a number of departures from the city in less than a year, including City Secretary Cindy Schwertner in June, former Mayor Bentley Martin before his term expired and a police chief late last fall. Read more at the River Cities Daily Tribune.

Payroll

Augusta–Richmond County, Georgia (population 195,844): City Administrator Fred Russell and city bean counters are beginning work on next year’s budget, holding hearings with department heads, but there is some unfinished business in this year’s budget…the 40 or some raises he approved, and now an internal audit report is finding problems with some of those raises. The report found that, in some cases, Russell far exceeded his authority to grant raises up to 15 percent. Meanwhile, the raises have prompted Commissioners Alvin Mason and Bill Lockett to call for across-the-board raises for all employees, a three percent increase would cost about $3 million…and almost $5 million for a five percent raise. Also on the agenda, Commissioner Alvin Mason is renewing his call to terminate Fred Russell. Read more at WJBF.com.

De Soto County, Mississippi (population 161,252): With little debate, the DeSoto Board of Supervisors on Tuesday in a 3-2 vote approved a lean $114 million county budget with no raises for county workers. “We’re happy about a budget that doesn’t increase the tax burden on the citizens,” County Administrator Michael Garriga said of the blueprint for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. “It also maintains services at the current level.” The budget forecasts total expenditures of $114,163,950, just $1,092,286 or less than 1 percent more than fiscal 2011’s $113,071,664. Total anticipated revenues are $78,409,508, with beginning cash at $64,669,000. Total ending cash would be $28,914,558. Read more at The Commercial Appeal.

Cape Coral, Florida (population 154,305): An 8 percent pay cut for police and firefighters could cover most of the $4 million gap between spending and income in the next city budget, City Manager Gary King said this morning during a Cape Coral City Council budget workshop. The city and the two unions are deadlocked in their negotiations over pay. An impasse has been declared. Mayor John Sullivan also was cautioned about how he proceeds with his intent to use his line item veto on the police and fire department budgets by the city attorney. Read more on News-Press.com.

Columbia, Missouri (population 108,500): City Manager Mike Matthes reccommended a pay raise for city employees Monday night as part of his proposed budget for fiscal year 2012. The city council discussed this along with the 1.3 percent budget cuts in the proposal. Matthes suggests a 25 cent an hour raise for city workers, who haven’t gotten a raise in two years. Matthes said the pay raise is to support higher performance among employees. The council must cut $2.3 million of its budget. It is also considering increasing service rates and making cuts to the bus system. During the public hearing, local residents spoke out mostly against the rate hikes and changes to transit. Council members said they would take their opinions into consideration as they continue discussing the cuts. Matthes said checks will start to bounce in July if no changes are made. Read more on KOMU.com.

Manteca, California (population 67,096): Assistant City Manager Karen McLaughlin will earn $144,690 in pay prior to taxes when she becomes City Manager. That is some $20,000 less than her predecessor was making. The contracts for both reflect higher rates of pay but that was before compensation reductions of 23.4 percent are factored into the equation. The compensation reductions are part of a citywide across-the-board cut in pay to balance the city budget and to eliminate the structured deficit. Read more at the Manteca Bulletin.

Louisville, Colorado (population 18,376): The City Council gave City Manager Malcolm Fleming a 3.9 percent raise Tuesday night, bumping his annual pay from $153,088 to $159,016. Fleming, who started with the city four years ago at a salary of $145,000, remains the third highest-paid municipal manager in Boulder County. Fleming, who declined a pay raise last year, will continue to receive a $525 monthly car allowance. Read more at the Daily Camera.

Lake Wales, Florida (population 13,076): All the city’s 178 city employees kept their jobs, which is what commissioners wanted. However, there is no cost-of-living adjustment this year and the city cut payroll costs by 3 percent — $247,442 — by requiring city employees to take 10 unpaid days off. Lake Wales hasn’t had an assistant city manager position for at least two years. All those duties are done by the city manager and department heads. Several departments shifted and traded job duties to cut vacant positions. Read more at NewsChief.com.

Mulberry, Florida (population 3,933): City commissioners gave Mulberry City Manager Frank Satchel Jr. an 11 percent raise Tuesday night, totaling $7,000 annually. The proposed city budget has 2.5 percent average raises for the city’s rank-and-file workers. Commissioners considered a formal evaluation for Satchel, but decided it wasn’t necessary. Satchel told commissioners he didn’t think he needed a formal evaluation. Satchel was appointed city manager two years ago after a succession of managers left amid controversy. He had been a city commissioner for 18 years in the past and had spent his career in the Polk County school system. Satchel also receives a monthly car allowance totaling $400. The proposed 2011-12 budget, which commissioners will consider at a meeting next week, includes about $20,000 collectively for the city’s employees, said Finance Director Blake Rane. That will allow for some of the city’s estimated 40 employees to receive merit raises ranging from 2 percent to 3 percent. Commissioners said Tuesday they weren’t concerned about finding $7,000 in the budget to boost Satchel’s salary. Scrocca said Satchel, who holds a doctorate in public administration, is worth more than the city is paying him, and Mulberry should be grateful he’s willing to work for what the city can pay. Read more on TheLedger.com.