Transitions: Compton, CA; Vista, CA; Trenton, NJ and more

“Let’s face it, when good times are rolling and the party is on, so to speak, no one wants to hear that the music is going to shut down.”–former Compton California City Manager Willie Norfleet

Compton, California (population 96,455): Amid financial turmoil and changing political tides, the Compton City Council has voted to fire its third city manager in five years. The council voted 3 to 2 late Tuesday to terminate City Manager Willie Norfleet, effective immediately. Norfleet had worked for the city for about four years and served as city controller until the council fired his predecessor, Charles Evans, last fall. Norfleet came under fire over revelations last spring that the city was running a $25-million deficit in its general fund and over his handling of budget cuts and mass layoffs intended to get the city’s finances back in line.

The council voted to bring in Lamont Ewell, a former Compton firefighter who went on to serve as city manager in San Diego and Santa Monica among other cities before retiring in 2009, as Norfleet’s replacement. Ewell’s contract is slated to be approved next week. Ewell, who grew up in Compton, said he sees taking the helm during troubled times as a way to pay back a debt to the city. Compton Councilwoman Yvonne Arceneaux, who voted to fire Norfleet, said the council is bringing in Ewell on a temporary basis in hopes he’ll spark a turnaround in the troubled city. Under law, Ewell may only work full time up to a year without sacrificing his pension benefits. Arceneaux said the council majority was unhappy with the way Norfleet handled the budget, and particularly with his lack of communication with some council members during that process.

The coalition of unions representing Compton employees filed an unfair labor practices claim over the layoffs and is threatening a lawsuit over alleged Brown Act violations in the way the budget was adopted. The Brown Act is the state statute that defines when government meetings must be public. The council voted in July to approve a last-minute amendment proposed by the city manager, with $1.2 million in concessions the unions had not agreed to and that the public — including some council members — did not see until midway through the meeting. Reached by phone, Norfleet said he had done his best in a tough situation and thought he was targeted partly because he pushed the council to make tough fiscal choices. He acknowledged that he could have been more vocal in warning the council that the deficit was ballooning before the city hit a crisis situation, but said some of his warnings went unheeded. The former city manager said he was not bitter over his ouster. Mayor Eric Perrodin voted against firing Norfleet, saying it was unfair to punish the city manager for a problem that had been building long before he took over. Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

Vista, California (population 93,834): Vista City Manager Rita Geldert said she plans to retire at the end of the year. Geldert has been Vista’s top administrator since 1997 and has been a public employee for more than 36 years. Geldert, 59, helped steer the city through tough economic times as cities have had to slash budgets to cope with decreased revenue and increased costs. The recession has prompted layoffs and reductions to services in the city in recent years, including leaving positions unfilled as employees retire or leave, reducing the city’s staff by about one-quarter. Geldert has orchestrated a plan to eliminate a recurring budget shortfall, known as a structural deficit. That plan, which will likely stay with the city as officials work out a budget for the next cycle, has so far aimed to keep the city financially viable by cutting spending by $5 million for the current fiscal year, which began in July. To do that the City Council approved taking an ambulance out of service, laying off seven employees, closing City Hall on all Fridays and cutting pay and requiring furloughs for all city employees except firefighters.

During her tenure, Geldert oversaw construction of three fire stations, the Vista Sports Park, the Moonlight Amphitheatre Stage House and a new Civic Center. Other milestones from her watch include the development of the Vista Village and beginning of the community volunteer program, Vistans ROC. She earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Cal State Chico and a masters of business administration from UC Davis. She has worked as a contracts administrator for Xerox Corp., personnel specialist for the California State University System, director of finance and administration for Dana Point, management services officer for Merced, personnel officer for Vacaville and assistant city manager in Vista. Geldert said in a news release she hopes to spend more time with her husband, three children and three grandchildren. Read more at The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Trenton, New Jersey (population 84,913): After stepping down from his position as the city’s business administrator last week, Eric Berry reported yesterday for his first day of work with a new employer. While the duties of his new job may be slightly different from those he undertook from his office at Trenton City Hall, he’ll at least be surrounded by a few familiar faces. Berry accepted a post this week working for the state Department of Community Affairs’ Division of Local Government Services, an agency that provides broad oversight of personnel and purchasing decisions made by the city as a condition of Trenton’s acceptance of nearly $30 million in aid last year.

Berry was the seventh person to serve as business administrator since Mayor Tony Mack took office last July. Mayoral aide Anthony Roberts has been appointed acting business administrator to succeed him. The city has had a rocky relationship with DCA, which has the authority to approve or reject cabinet-level appointments. It has tossed out several of Mack’s picks, including Nicole Sharpe for finance director and Caroline Clark for municipal court judge. After Mack told reporters he was going to name Ismael Rivera as acting police director in the wake of a city council vote not to consider his appointment, the department ordered the mayor to withdraw Rivera’s name. More recently, it has cast doubt on the qualifications of several acting directors recently appointed to head the public works and housing and economic development departments.

South Ward Councilman George Muschal has said Berry resigned under pressure from Mack after rumors surfaced that he was in talks with the Union County city of Plainfield for an administrator’s post there. Neff, meanwhile, said Berry is welcome to stay with the state. Read more at NJ.com.

Hercules, California (population 24,060): The Hercules City Council unanimously approved a three-year employment contract Tuesday with new City Manager Steve Duran. Duran’s first day in his new job will be Oct. 10. He currently is executive director of Richmond’s Community Redevelopment Agency as well as that city’s economic development director. Duran will be paid $192,500 annually, reflecting a base salary of $220,000 minus a 12.5 percent cut, the same percentage agreed to by all of the city’s employee bargaining units earlier this year. Duran’s pay will rise once the city increases the pay of other employees, and by the same percentage.

Duran’s predecessor, Nelson Oliva, who served in the top post from April 2007 to January 2011, received a base salary of $225,000 a year. Duran’s contract is broadly similar to Oliva’s, with several important differences: It provides for six months’ severance pay if terminated by the city without good cause, compared with 12 months for Oliva. There is no housing allowance provision in Duran’s contract; Oliva got a $250,000, zero-interest personal loan to help him buy a home in Hercules. Oliva is widely blamed for Hercules’ current financial crisis, although he has said he kept the City Council apprised of everything he did. The city has withheld payment of the second of two installments of his one-year severance pay. The city has sued Oliva for $3 million, alleging a conflict of interest in connection with the family company’s consulting contracts with the city; the value of the contracts rose to more than $1 million annually before they were terminated last fiscal year. Read at the San Jose Mercury News.

Longboat Key, Florida (population 6,888): If the Longboat Key Town Commission ratifies a contract signed today by Sarasota Deputy Administrator Dave Bullock, he is Longboat Key’s hire for a one-year interim town manager. The contract pays Bullock $180,000 for the year plus benefits (see Bullock’s contract), but according to Town Attorney David Persson, offers the commission flexibility if at any time it is not satisfied with Bullock’s performance. The terms say that Bullock is entitled to one-month of severance (under $20,000) if terminated at any time without cause during the year. If at the end of the year the commissioners want to keep Bullock, his salary will remain at $180,000. At the end of the year if the town wishes to terminate Bullock, the town will pay no severance whatsoever.

The decision to pursue Bullock follows the termination Sept. 19 of former Town Manager Bruce St. Denis. The commission laid out a strategy to locate an interim manager to keep the town moving as it searched for a permanent candidate. The process also was designed to allow the town to evaluate the interim manager as a prime contender. The decision to pursue Bullock came amid protest by Commissioner Lynn Larson at Monday’s Special Meeting when the commission authorized Persson to negotiate the contract. Larson told fellow commissioners to look at other options and at town employees as well. Town Attorney David Persson opened the discussion Monday about the interim town manager by saying he understood that each commissioner had the opportunity over the weekend to speak with Sarasota County Deputy Administrator Bullock. Persson sought direction as to whether the commission wanted to pursue Bullock and negotiate a contract or to continue its search.

The majority of the commissioners said the terms that Persson plans to negotiate with Bullock will protect the town in that it provides commissioners two distinct exit strategies. First, at any point in the year, the town can terminate Bullock and owe him one month’s severance. The other option is if at the end of one year, the town is not satisfied with Bullock or has found someone they prefer, Bullock can be terminated with no severance.

Vice Mayor Brenner spoke of instances where the number one candidate went elsewhere while a community got bogged down in process. Persson reminded the commission that he was instructed to look outside the organization and said that unless the commission changed the ground rules, that’s what he would continue to do.

Bullock has been continuously employed by Sarasota County since 1994 when he was hired at $59,999 as the solid waste director. Former County Administrator Jim Ley was hired in 1997 and Bullock was promoted in 1998 by Ley to the number-two position in the county as deputy administrator at a salary of $79,999. Bullock has remained in that position since and currently earns $180,065 per year. Bullock earned a Bachelors of Science in Education from West Chester State College in Pennsylvania in May 1972 and worked in the construction and waste management industries before relocating to Sarasota. Bullock has been married to Donna, the “smartest person I have ever met,” as he puts it, for 28 years. They have three grown children between them, daughter Noli, and sons, Sean and Michael. Bullock spoke of his passion for water sports — boating, scuba diving and fishing — that has kept him literally swimming and diving for years around the key. Bullock said if the contract is agreed upon, he will be available by the end of October. The commission will consider the contract and if a supermajority (at least five of seven) say “yes,” Bullock is Longboat Key’s new interim town manager. Read more at Longboat Key News.

Wildwood, New Jersey (population 5,325): City Commissioners gave the nod to two resolutions that should produce a cost savings for the city.The passage of the resolutions too place during the Wildwood Board of Commissioners meeting on Wed., Sept. 28. According to a press release issued by the city, “The Board unanimously passed a resolution appointing City Clerk Christopher H. Wood as Municipal Administrator of the City of Wildwood, effective immediately.” Wood’s current City Clerk salary of $65,000 per year will not increase. The City Administrator position has sat empty since May, 2011. The position was created by the previous administration as part of its reorganization. The previous administration paid more than $120,000 per year in salary, benefits and perks to a full-time Administrator. The city has modified its administrator position to be more inline with the position in Wildwood Crest.

Transitions: Who’s in and who’s out, week of September 14-21

Ann Arbor, Michigan (population 113,934): Steve Powers is starting as Ann Arbor’s new city administrator. Powers, a 49-year-old Illinois native, has a lot to learn about Ann Arbor. Things like: Green is important. Transportation doesn’t necessarily mean a vehicle. And translucent isn’t transparent enough — not to the watchdog citizens surely to scrutinize his every move. But that’s the easy stuff. Powers, who will receive a $145,000 base salary, also faces the unenviable task of trying to reconcile differences with the city’s labor unions — particularly police and fire, which have had contentious relations with the city’s current leadership. To put it simply, they saw Ann Arbor’s last city administrator, Roger Fraser, as an adversary. Coming from Marquette County, where he served as county administrator for the past 15 years, Powers has the distinct advantage of being a fresh face. Ann Arbor officials stressed during the recent search process they were looking for an administrator who could communicate well with employees, be a consensus builder and manage in an aggressive collective bargaining environment. Ann Arbor has eight collective bargaining units and close to 200 of the city’s 700-plus employees are represented by the police and fire unions.  AFSCME, the largest union, represents about 230 employees who recently agreed to major concessions that the city has been unable to get out of police and fire. To date, the city has been unable to achieve the kind of concessions it has wanted from its public safety unions, and negotiations with both police and fire are now in binding arbitration. As a result of those standstills, many jobs have been eliminated, and police and fire services have been impacted. In recent years, when city budget cuts came down and deep cuts to public safety were exacted, Fraser was seen as the guy left holding the ax. The city reduced its work force by 30 percent during his nine-year tenure and the unions weren’t happy. Not helping matters were situations like what happened in February 2010. Just three weeks after firefighters agreed to voluntary concessions that included a 4 percent reduction in compensation, which they hoped would save jobs, they were told by Fraser and his administration that six more positions than previously expected were slated to be cut. One representative of the firefighters union put it this way at the time: “That’s like doing a guy a favor and having him come back and hit you with a baseball bat.” In addition to his time in Marquette, Powers brings experience from his days in Oregon where he was an assistant county administrator responsible for human resources, labor relations, risk management and organizational development. Powers, who oversaw 240-plus employees, reports success in negotiating concessions and notes most Marquette County employees have had their pay frozen for two years. Read more at AnnArbor.com.

Centennial, Colorado (population 100,377): Dave Zelenok will fill the role of interim city manager for the city of Centennial until a permanent replacement can be found. The Centennial City Council picked Zelenok, who’s been acting city manager since Jacque Wedding-Scott announced her resignation in August. Zelenok joined the city of Centennial in 2007 as its public works director. He previously held that position for the city of Colorado Springs and was its director of transportation as well. The city of Centennial last week issued a call for an executive search firm to help find a new city manager. Read more at the Denver Business Journal.

Folsom, California (population 72,203): Evert Palmer, Folsom’s assistant city manager for the last five years, has been named city manager effective Oct. 14, replacing the outgoing Kerry Miller, Mayor Andy Morin announced Tuesday. Palmer, 51, will receive an annual salary of $201,420. His contract will be voted on by the City Council at its Sept. 27 meeting. Palmer has been with the city for more than 15 years. In addition to serving as assistant city manager, he has been director of administrative services and assistant finance/information technology director. Miller will retire in mid-October. He credited Palmer with having a “collaborative spirit” and said he is “highly skilled at creating partnerships.” Read more at the Sacramento Bee.

Davis, California (population 65,622): Davis’ new city manager, Steve Pinkerton, spent his first day on the job two weeks ago brushing up on local issues. But no amount of preparation could ready him for the marathon City Council meeting that started at 6:30 p.m. and ended nine hours later, just before daylight broke the following morning. That was his second day of work. Pinkerton’s wife, Audrey, is a partner at an environmental law firm that serves clients throughout the state. Two of their children — Daniel, 2, and Joshua, 11 — live with them in Davis. Pinkerton’s daughter, Carly, 18, is a freshman in college and son, Michael, 16, lives with Pinkerton’s ex-wife in Stockton. During the transition from serving as the city manager of Manteca, a city about 70 miles south of Davis, Pinkerton and his family alternated between commuting and staying at a hotel downtown. They have since bought a home by the North Davis greenbelt and are almost completely moved in. While Davis and Manteca have similar population sizes — 65,000 and 68,410, respectively — every city has different challenges and issues to learn about. Pinkerton, who grew up in the college town of Columbia, Mo., earned bachelor’s degrees in economics and geography from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and a master’s in economics and planning from the University of Southern California. Pinkerton, who will be paid $188,000 per year, replaces Bill Emlen as city manager. Emlen served as city manager for 4 1/2 years before accepting a position with Solano County last September. Before Pinkerton served as city manager in Manteca, he spent 13 years leading Stockton’s revitalization efforts. He also held managerial positions in the Southern California cities of Long Beach and Redondo Beach. Read more at the Davis Enterprise.

Pender County, North Carolina (population 52,217): Pender County Manager Rick Benton has announced he will retire at the end of the year.  Benton came to Pender County in August, 2008. Benton, who has spent more than 30 years working in county and city government,  told The Pender Post his decision to retire was a personal one, and he had not been asked to leave. Benton plans to continue living in Pender County.  Commissioner Jimmy Tate, who was instrumental in bringing Benton to Pender County,  praised Benton’s work. Read more at The Pender Post.

Grundy County, Illinois (population 50,063): Grundy County has hired a new county administrator but not everyone on the county board was on board. With a 15-3 vote last week Coal city resident Shawn Hamilton was hired to fill the vacated position of Dan Duffy, who left in July to fill the village administrator’s position in Minooka. Hamilton will receive a salary of $70,000, a little less than what Duffy received, and about $30,000 in benefits. Hamilton was chosen out of 22 candidates. He is a fourth-generation Grundy County resident who is also well-known in the community because of his participation on a number of boards including the Coal City School Board and the Grundy Economic Development Council. Hamilton’s financial experience includes his most recent positions as a business manager for the Center for Professional Development in Oakland, Calif., a lead manager for the U.S. Bank in Aurora, and a senior financial analyst for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. Read more at the Herald-News.

Coffee County, Alabama (population 49,948): When Rod Morgan resigned as Prattville’s financial director in January, many job opportunities existed in the Birmingham and Montgomery areas. But Morgan felt like he was being “led” home to the Enterprise area – an area with comparatively fewer opportunities for someone with his extensive education. The move has paid off, though, as Morgan was recently hired to be the Coffee County administrator. Morgan, an Enterprise native, said he and his family felt right in returning to Coffee County. The 1990 Daleville High graduate brings plenty of experience to the job. He graduated from Troy University-Dothan in 1999 with a degree in finance and in 2001 with a master’s degree in business administration. In 2004, he earned a law degree from the University of Alabama. He joined a law firm in Montgomery and mostly handled public financing cases. Through that, he developed relationships with some of Prattville’s leaders. After a few years at the law firm, Prattville’s financial director resigned, and then-mayor Jim Byard offered the job to Morgan, who accepted. In that position, Morgan mostly used his financial background, but he said his law school training aided in economic development issues, like recruiting businesses. It also helped in obtaining grants as he knew the full spectrum of the process involved. In his new job, he said the financial responsibilities are very similar, but the overall tasks are a bit broader than the ones he had in Prattville. Morgan said he plans to get a feel of the county’s finances before suggesting any ideas to the county commissioners for implementation. The learning curve may not be too steep as Morgan said he kept an eye on the local government while working in Prattville. Morgan lives in Enterprise with his wife, Christina (Yager), and daughters Kaleigh, Kinsley, Caroline and Ashley. Read more at EpriseNow.com.

Steele County, Minnesota (population 36,576): After six months on the job as Steele County Administrator, Riaz Aziz informed county commissioners in a closed door meeting Tuesday night that he will be moving on. Aziz informed department heads of his decision on Wednesday, promising to stay on board until the end of October so he can “tie up loose ends.” Aziz cited “personal and professional” reasons for the resignation, though he emphasized the driving factor was the distance between he and his family at this time. Aziz assumed the position in March, after longtime county coordinator Dave Severson retired. Read more at the Owatonna People’s Press.

Sagadahoc County, Maine (population 35,293): The Sagadahoc County Commissioners hope to hire a new administrator soon after Pam Corrigan resigned abruptly on Aug. 24. Corrigan, who started work as the county administrator for Sagadahoc County in 2007, cited emotional distress and what she viewed as an oppressive performance evaluation process as reasons for her immediate departure. Carol Grose, chairwoman of the Sagadahoc County Commissioners, said Corrigan will be missed and said that commissioners plan to advertise for a new county administrator. Salary and other details related to the position remain to be worked out, Grose said. Commissioners have not set a target date to fill the position, she said, but they hope to do so as soon as possible. In the meantime, other employees in the county’s administrative office have stepped up to share the administrator’s responsibilities. Grose said the commissioners continue to hold their meetings as usual. Read more at the Times Record.

Falmouth, Massachusetts (population 31,531): Julian Suso, the town manager of Framingham, has been offered the same job in Falmouth. By a 4-1 vote, Falmouth selectmen Monday night appointed Suso to the job pending additional background checks and successful contract negotiations. Suso’s competition for the job was fellow finalist James Boudreau, the town administrator of Norwell. In making the decision, the majority of board members expressed the belief that both men could do the job but that Suso could start contributing from day one. Bob Whritenour Jr. resigned as town administrator in Falmouth in November of 2010. Suso was selected from an initial pool of 78 applicants. A screening committee presented four candidates to selectmen and Suso and Boudreau moved on from that group. The position had an advertised annual salary of $139,000. Read more at Wicked Local Cape Cod

Sedalia, Missouri (population 21,284): After a little more than a month on the job, Sedalia City Administrator Gary Edwards said he is looking to bring an inclusive approach to managing the city that welcomes a wide range of input on the community’s direction. Edwards joined the city at the start of August, coming from Wickenburg, Ariz., where he been town administrator since 2007. But he is no stranger to Missouri or Sedalia. Before taking the job in Arizona, Edwards was manager or administrator in the Missouri cities of Moberly, Festus, Ste. Genevieve and Branson West. He has also was the chief of staff and communications director for former U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and had worked as a news director for KDRO in Sedalia. Edwards credited the work of past and current council members, mayors and city employees for building the strong reserve fund the city has set aside, which he said will be important to helping ensure that Sedalia can weather a prolonged period of national economic uncertainty. Despite economic concerns across the country, Edwards said the city has reported rising sales tax revenues so far through this fiscal year, which he cited as an indication of Sedalia’s “strong and diverse economic base.” Edwards said he plans monthly staff meetings to review expenditure and revenue performance with department leaders, and he discussed starting a performance measurement system for the city aimed at measuring the efficiency of each department. Describing his management style as inclusive and democratic, Edwards said he wanted to involve council members, city employees and members of the community to participate in determining the priorities and objectives for the city. Through his collaborative work with elected officials, city staff and residents, Edwards said he hopes to help make Sedalia a better place than it was when he arrived. Read more at the Sedalia Democrat.

Pittsburg, Kansas (population 20,233): After 45 years of service with the City of Pittsburg, interim City Manager John Van Gorden has decided to retire effective Oct. 1, 2012. Since starting as a laborer with the City on Feb. 22, 1967, Van Gorden has held various jobs within the City such as Director of Public Works, Director of Parks and Recreation, Assistant City Manager and, his latest title, interim City Manager — a position he has held on four separate occasions. Van Gorden’s latest stint as interim City Manager began four years ago with the departure of former City Manager Allen Gill. Through his four stints overseeing City operations, Van Gorden has always had the tag of “interim” attached to the title. The reason for the attachment is because Van Gorden currently lives outside the city boundaries and cannot hold the City Manager title by city ordinance. He and his wife Joye have five children between them and eight grandchildren. He said his focus after public life will be on his family. Despite the fact that his retirement is a year away, Van Gorden said that walking away from a city he has worked for 45 years will not be easy. As for the city, O’Bryan said that the search for Van Gorden’s replacement will begin soon. Read more at the Morning Sun.

Forest Lake, Minnesota (population 18,375): City of Crookston Administrator Aaron Parrish has been offered a similar job in the outer Twin Cities suburb of Forest Lake, and he told the Times today that he and his wife, Lisa, will spend the early part of this week mulling over the draft of the employment agreement. Parrish, one of a half-dozen finalists for the position in the city of around 15,000 that’s close to his roots, interviewed for the position Sept. 16-17 and, after a comprehensive process that involved Forest Lake city officials, council members and citizens, the Forest Lake Times reported over the weekend that he was the top choice in a straw poll and was subsequently offered the job. At the “step one” level in Forest Lake, Parrish would make an annual salary of $107,000. He’s paid $88,000 a year in Crookston. Parrish, city administrator in Crookston for eight years, has said that it would take a certain situation for him to pursue a career move elsewhere. Geography would play a part, he said, if it was closer to his home town. He said the search process in Forest Lake was very comprehensive and included a tour and lunch with department heads, individual interviews with the mayor and council, a meet and greet with the public and dinner with the mayor and council, all on Friday. Saturday, he interviewed separately with department heads, a community panel, the mayor and full council. The Forest Lake Times reported in its story over the weekend that Parrish wasn’t everyone’s top choice, but that Parrish scored high in just about every step of the interview process. Read more in the Crookston Times.

Chowan County, North Carolina (population 14,739): If you take Paul Parker at his word, the former Chowan County manager was absolutely clueless that he was about to lose his job the night Chowan commissioners called him into a closed session Sept. 6. Of course if that’s true, then it’s further proof that Chowan commissioners made the right call to terminate Parker’s employment after less than a year in the county’s top administrative post. Parker’s actions the week Hurricane Irene was bearing down on the Albemarle — actions that ultimately led to his firing last week — suggest someone seriously lacking a sense of what it means to be a public servant. As the Chowan Herald of Edenton recently reported, Parker decided to leave Chowan on Aug. 25 — two days before Irene made landfall on the North Carolina coast — because he wanted to keep a doctor’s appointment he had made in Wilmington weeks before the storm threatened. Parker said he had exhausted his supply of medication and needed a refill and couldn’t get one without seeing his doctor. While that decision could have been excused — it’s feasible Parker could have traveled to Wilmington, seen his doctor and returned to Chowan on Aug. 26 — what he did next wouldn’t have been acceptable of any public official paid to protect the public in a crisis, but particularly one responsible for planning and managing the emergency response for an entire community. In response to a text from the county clerk, Parker said he had no plans to return to Chowan until Aug. 29 — two days after the storm had passed over the county. Parker would later tell commissioners that he had planned to ride out the storm in Pender County, where he owns a home and where his wife still lives, because he wasn’t sure he could make it back to Chowan before Irene hit. Apparently thinking better of it, Parker decided to return to Chowan the night of Aug. 26, hours before the massive storm was scheduled to pass over the region. By then, however, Chowan commissioners had already stepped into the breach, holding a meeting in their manager’s absence to declare a state of emergency, authorize county expenditures for hurricane preparations and to plan the county’s response to Irene. Parker said commissioners treated him coolly when he got back to Chowan — he described feeling like a “popsicle” — but even then he did nothing to change what by then had become their increasingly sour judgment of his management and leadership skills. The very next morning — as Irene’s winds and rains were already beginning to punish the region — Parker missed a 6 a.m. scheduled meeting of county officials to monitor the storm. Parker’s excuse for being absent was that he couldn’t get out of his driveway — his temporary residence in Chowan was a county-owned home — because of fallen debris. Apparently it didn’t occur to him to pick up his cell phone and call any number of Chowan or Edenton officials who would have given him a ride to the meeting. Presumably, missing that meeting was the last straw. Commissioners determined that Parker’s focus was somewhere other than Chowan and that, at least right now, he wasn’t capable of making the personal sacrifices that come with being a county manager. They voted 6-1 to fire him. It obviously was a much more difficult decision than the vote margin suggests. A divided commission board had given Parker — the county’s interim manager at the time — the permanent job only last November. Parker’s obvious concern about the welfare and safety of his wife and home in Pender County with the approach of a giant storm was also a mitigating factor in what otherwise could only be viewed as irresponsible behavior. In retrospect, the three commissioners who voted against giving Parker the permanent job last November were prescient in their criticism of their four peers’ decision. They said they objected to what they considered a hasty and incomplete recruitment process. The county received 70 applications for the county’s vacant manager’s job, but none of those candidates were ever interviewed. Instead, four members of the commission board decided to hand Parker the job because it was quick — he was already in Chowan working as interim manager. At the time he arrived in Chowan, Parker was serving as assistant county manager in Pender County and had served as its interim manager several times. However, he had never actually held the title of county manager himself. Read the story at the Daily Advance.

La Marque, Texas (population 14,509): The economic development manager for the central Texas town of Live Oak will be the interim city manager for La Marque. City council members approved hiring Carol Buttler to replace Eric Gage, who is leaving the city next week to go back into the real estate business. Buttler, 57, has been the economic and community development manager for Live Oak since 2009. Before that, she spent five years as the assistant city manager and director of business and community development for Hondo. She also spent 10 years working for the city of La Porte before taking the job in Hondo. Buttler will make $3,308 per pay period (twice a month) plus a $500 monthly car allowance, according to city records. She would assume the interim city manager’s job Sept. 22, the day after Gage is set to leave. While she could be considered for the full time job, Hocking said Buttler’s hire is for now on an interim basis. The city will conduct another search for a full-time city manager, the mayor said. That search might not happen until after the May elections in which the mayor and two council positions will be up for a vote. But, should someone come along before May who fits the bill, the mayor said it is possible the council would considering hiring a full-time city manager ahead of the elections. Buttler could not be reached for comment. Read more at the Galveston County Daily News.

Ocean City, Maryland (population 7,173): Dennis Dare has retired as city manager of the town of Ocean City after four City Council members voted in closed session last week for him to retire on Sept. 9, or be fired. The council president said little to elaborate on the move, which contributed to questions from the public about the closed session vote. He did say the vote regarding Dare was not related to any improprieties, not related to Dare’s salary and not related to any business contracts or hiring connected with Dare’s work as city manager. As city manager, Dare was responsible for hiring and firing city employees, assigning contracts, ordering research and carrying out the will of the council. Dare has worked for the city for almost 30 years. When the council convened on Sept. 9, word that Dare’s career was in question drew a packed house of people calling for details about the Sept. 8 closed session. Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said he did not agree with “the new direction,” the four members of the council were touting as part of the vote for Dare’s retirement. Meehan on Wednesday sent Ocean City Today a letter to the editor, which called Dare’s dismissal “a vindictive move made without proper justification.” When the four members of the council majority moved behind the closed session doors where they voted for Dare to resign or be fired, Meehan remained seated at the dais with council members Doug Cymek and Mary Knight. Council Secretary Lloyd Martin was required to attend the closed session but he and Meehan each said, “It’s a sad day for Ocean City.” City Solicitor Guy Ayers said the council vote was legal. Dare had a contract with the city that guaranteed 120 days severance salary. While the agreement Dare accepted is a city personnel matter that cannot be fully made public, Pillas said he would receive several months of pay, his full 30-year retirement plan and any other benefits. The members of the majority said the vote regarding Dare was in line with moves they made after gaining the necessary fourth seat on the seven-member council in October. Pillas said moves that were part of that campaign to reduce city spending included lowering the starting salaries of new city employees and abolishing town committees as part of a move to seek more private sector input regarding tourism. It was during the contentious discussions about a reduced salary schedule for new hires and a revised benefit plan that the majority clashed with Dare, as well as those in the new minority who opposed the moves. The town charter requires a city manager to serve at the pleasure of the City Council. If that position is vacant, the charter stipulates that the mayor assumes the responsibility during the interim. Meehan took on his new duties as city manager during Tuesday’s work session by reading management reports. Still, Meehan said the department heads are on edge following the forced retirement of the manager who had 17 departments report to him. Knight said the council majority has some candidates in mind to become city manager and has shared the identity of one with the minority. Jim Hall said he had one candidate in mind personally, but would not specify where the candidate came from. Ashley said the majority has considered an inhouse candidate. Pillas said she is considering “about three candidates who are in house.” Read more at Ocean City Today.

Longboat Key, Florida (population 6,888) Longboat Key Town Manager Bruce St. Denis signed a separation agreement Friday, Sept. 16, officially ending his 14 years of service to the town. The agreement to depart followed the news that a majority of the seven-member Town Commission wants him out of office. Town Attorney Dave Persson said St. Denis is the exception in his longevity in the position. Several commissioners have expressed a growing collective voice that the town is facing tremendous challenges in redevelopment, fixing its pension liabilities, and affording labor contracts services and beach maintenance. Several want to see change and want a “change agent,” have decided that while St. Denis’ strengths were the right fit for the past cycle of the island, the future calls for a different skill set, and that St. Denis is just too tied to the policies and some of the problems that the board is trying to repair.  St. Denis has held the top position in the town as manager for 14 years and while he was aware of performance issues and was told on several occasions over the past six months that his job was in jeopardy, it was last Monday that St. Denis learned that five of seven commissioners — enough to terminate him according to town law — had serious performance issues. Mayor Jim Brown had asked Town Attorney David Persson a week prior to independently poll commissioners one-by-one to gauge what he sensed was growing dissatisfaction. Five — Mayor Jim Brown, Vice Mayor Dave Brenner and Commissioners Lynn Larson, Jack Duncan and Phill Younger all expressed issues with St. Denis. Commissioners Hal Lenobel and Pat Zunz did not want to see St. Denis gone, and Lenobel has verbally supported and defended St. Denis throughout the process. Persson told St. Denis the results and encouraged St. Denis to talk to each commissioner, and he did. St. Denis concluded after his discussions that a majority wanted him out of the position and that triggered his decision to voluntarily leave. Persson said the mayor was aware of performance issues and if a majority were inclined, it would allow St. Denis the opportunity to make his own decision instead of putting him through a review that would become part of his employment record. It was an attempt to humanize the process, said Persson. The terms of the town’s contact with the manager state that if St. Denis exits voluntarily, no severance is granted unless one is negotiated. If St. Denis opted not to resign, five commissioners could terminate without cause and the town would have to pay St. Denis one year’s worth of salary and benefits in a severance package that would cost about $260,000 to taxpayers. And instead of putting himself through a review process that appeared destined to end in termination, the voluntary stepping away and granting of the severance was negotiated and agreed upon Friday afternoon. The terms of the termination agreement state that St. Denis will be on call to assist the interim town manager starting Monday, Sept. 19 until Oct. 15. Within seven days following Oct. 15, the town will pay a total of $268,364.81 to St. Denis in severance in the following breakdown:

  • Twelve months base salary totaling $177,507.20.
  • $49,702.01, representing 28 percent of his base salary into his existing 401K
  • $16,507.79 for 12 months of medical premiums
  • $24,647.81 in unused vacation pay

St. Denis also agreed to not criticize the agreement or any aspect arising out of the agreement. Both the town and St. Denis also released each other from any future liability for past official acts and actions. St. Denis told Longboat Key News Friday evening that he has no regrets and that the opportunity to manage Longboat Key was the crowning event of his career. To streamline and expedite this process, the mayor has asked the town attorney to make contact and explore options for an interim town manager. Brown said it is important that the board come to a consensus as to the type of interim town manager they seek. Brown believes the interim manager can expect to be employed by the town from six to eight months while the town conducts a search for a permanent manager. Brown added that the process for selection of the permanent town manager should include development of the type of manager the commission is looking for as well as a proposed salary range. Read more at Longboat Key News.

Sturgis, South Dakota (population 6,627): Sturgis has a new city manager. Officials announced they’ve contracted Daniel Ainsle from northern California for the position. Ainsle worked as a development manager for the city of Merced, California, and will start his new post November 1. Former Sturgis City Manager David Boone resigned earlier this year after being convicted of grand theft. Read the story at KELOLAND.COM.

Salida, Colorado (population 5,274): Before the start of the special Salida City Council meeting Tuesday, Jack Lewis, city administrator, announced he would be leaving his job Oct. 5 to become city administrator in Black Hawk. Lewis has held the job in Salida since Feb. 2, 2009, and earlier worked in private business at Jackson Hole Resort. He told The Mountain Mail Wednesday Black Hawk “seems like a better fit for me at this time in my life.” Black Hawk is the No. 1 gambling city in the state, Lewis said. Lewis said if needed, he will assist in the selection process for a new Salida administrator. At the council meeting Sept. 20, council was scheduled to determine how to handle the hiring process. In the meantime, Lewis said he will remain on the Salida Natural Resource Center Development Corporation board, until council makes a decision to “kick him off or keep him on.” He said he would like to stay on the board, but it might depend upon the time commitment. Lewis said he will “absolutely” miss Salida, but plans to “check in” periodically. Read more at the Mountain Mail.

Basehor, Kansas(population 4,613): The Basehor City Council voted Monday night to oust city administrator Mark Loughry from his position, in a split decision that led one council member to storm out of the building. Four months after unanimously re-appointing Loughry as the city administrator, the council voted, 3-2, to remove his appointment after council president Dennis Mertz’s motion to do so. Along with Mertz, members Fred Box and Iris Dysart voted to remove Loughry, and members David Breuer and Travis Miles voted against the motion. Soon after the vote was taken, Breuer stood up, threw a packet of papers across the council’s table against a wall, and walked out of Basehor City Hall. The council voted to adjourn the meeting quickly afterward. Loughry was absent from Monday’s meeting. Mayor Terry Hill said he was on vacation with his family. Hill said he had asked city attorney Shannon Marcano to look into the possibility of a veto or another measure to undo the vote. The council voted to remove Loughry after addressing its final agenda item for the night, a proposed addendum to Loughry’s employment agreement with the city. The addendum stated that Loughry would “receive the same cost of living increase as other City employees” and that the city would pay 100 percent of health insurance premiums for Loughry and his family. Marcano said the proposed addendum was meant to formalize the pay and benefits that Loughry’s contract originally “anticipated.” After a vote to deny the addendum to Loughry’s contract (3-2, with Breuer and Miles opposing), Mertz made his motion to remove Loughry from the administrator position. After a discussion between Mertz and Marcano regarding whether the material should be discussed in open session, the council voted on the issue with no further explanation.

Update:

Oconto City, Wisconsin (population 4,513): City Administrator Linda Belongia died last Wednesday after a 15-month battle with cancer. She was 56. Belongia served the city for nearly a quarter century. Belongia became clerk-treasurer in May 1988 and was re-elected to that job until 2006. The council at that time decided to make the post an appointed one, along with adding duties of city administrator. Services for Belongia were held Monday.

Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona (population 3,894): Dewey-Humboldt is back to square one in getting a new town manager in place after Garrett Earls informed council members this past week that he was withdrawing his acceptance of the job – again. Earls interviewed for the position in mid-April, along with three other finalists. Earls withdrew his name from the pool of town manager candidates on April 27, and promptly withdrew his withdrawal on the same day. At a May 26 meeting, the council voted 6-1 to offer the position to Earls. In the event negotiations fell through, the council voted to offer the position to Yvonne Kimball. Former councilman David Nystrom explained his ‘nay’ vote at that meeting, saying Earls had no formal training for the town manager position in Williamstown, population 3,215, which has no zoning requirements. On June 10, Earls signed a job offer from Mayor Terry Nolan, agreeing to a start date of Aug. 13 and an annual salary of $67,000. At a Sept. 7 town council meeting, the council members went into executive session for legal advice from Town Attorney Susan Goodwin regarding a communication from Earls. Nolan and the council cannot discuss publicly what happens in executive session. When council resumed the open session, Nolan announced that Earls, former town manager of Williamstown, Vt., had withdrawn his application, citing personal issues as the reason. Earls’ letter also expressed concern over the town’s requirements for fingerprinting, background check, drug and alcohol screening, and a 12-month probationary period. The town’s Administrative Regulation 10-07(6.2) requires a drug and alcohol screening within 24 hours of an offer of employment. Mayor Terry Nolan confirmed that Earls never complied with the drug and alcohol screening requirement. The council has directed Goodwin to contact Yvonne Kimball and determine if she is still available and interested in the town manager’s job and, if so, to begin negotiations. Read more at the Daily Courier.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California (population 3,722): More than six months after a divided Carmel City Council agreed to oust embattled City Administrator Rich Guillen, the council voted unanimously tonight to hire a new city administrator. Jason Stilwell, currently serving as assistant county executive officer/budget director of Santa Barbara County, will assume the role Sept. 28. There were 128 applicants for the job, and Sacramento-based search firm Peckham and McKenney weeded through resumes and recruited candidates, ultimately bringing in seven for interviews. The council discussed the prospective hire in closed session, and invited several representatives of community groups to meet and review a few candidates. The city paid Peckham and McKenney $16,500 for the search. Stilwell’s three-year contract sets a $176,500 annual salary; he’ll also receive $15,000 toward moving expenses. Read more at the Monterey County Weekly.

Gold Beach, Oregon (population 2,253): With Ellen Barnes leaving in mid-October to take a position as Molalla city manager, the Gold Beach City Council set about Monday to discuss a replacement. They did not have to look far. Sitting across from them was Barnes’ loyal assistant, city planner and city recorder, Jodi Fritts. Little did Fritts know that a few questions posed by the Council about whether to spend $6,000 for the League of Oregon Cities to perform a search for Barnes’ replacement would turn into a full-blown interview at a public meeting. Fritts apparently passed the interview with flying colors because a short time later the City Council voted unanimously to name Fritts as Barnes replacement. An executive session will be held to discuss Fritts’ salary and an employment contract. Barnes endorsed Fritts and also noted there is a network of city administrators throughout the state willing to assist her at any time. Fritts started out being an utilities administrator for the City and then the bookkeeper under Shirley Walker. She eventually left the City to work for Curry County in its planning department. At one time she was the planning director for the County. Fritts returned to the City a few years ago and has been Barnes assistant concentrating on planning, and the IT financial system conversion. A key consideration for the City Council was hiring someone as City Administrator who was committed to staying in Gold Beach. Barnes lasted two years and former police chief P.J. Janik lasted even less than two years. Fritts graduated from Gold Beach High School, and raised her children in Gold Beach. As she said, she’s not going anywhere.  Barnes will honor her contract with the stipulation she provides 45-day notice before leaving her position. Her last official day will be October 21, although she told the City Council Monday that she will take some vacation so that she will actually be leaving the City in mid-October. Barnes was one of four candidates picked from a pool of 42 applicants for the Molalla City Manager position, and on September 6 was hired from the pool of the four finalists. According to Gold Beach Mayor Jim Wernicke, Barnes had notified him and the majority of the Gold Beach City Council that she would be pursuing a position elsewhere. Barnes utilized a ‘head-hunting’ service through the League of Oregon Cities to find a job that would fit the skills of Barnes. The City of Gold Beach has a tumultuous history with keeping the City Administrator position filled, with a high turnover rate and long periods of the position remaining vacant, but Wernicke says this time is not part of that checkered past. Read more at the Curry County Reporter.

Veazie, Maine (population 1,937): The Town Council voted Monday to enter negotiations with a retired Holden town manager to fill the vacant Veazie manager’s seat on a temporary basis. Councilors voted 4-1 to speak with former Holden Town Manager Larry Varisco about the possibility of him working as town manager two or three days per week while the town fields applications to fill the position in the long term. The council voted not to renew former Town Manager Bill Reed’s contract at a meeting on Sept. 12. Reed’s contract stipulated that the town would need to give him a month’s pay for each of his 18 years as manager if they voted to terminate his contract. His severance package totals more than $100,000. Council Chairman Joseph Friedman said he was interested in picking a temporary replacement from a crop of former managers including Varisco; Sue Lessard, who has resigned as Hampden’s town manager; and former Castine and Belfast town manager Terry St. Peter. The temporary position would last until the town finds its next manager, a task that Friedman estimated would take about eight weeks. Friedman said he leaned toward Varisco after the former Holden manager expressed interest in helping Veazie with its transition during a recent phone call.  Next week, the council will discuss whether it wants to conduct the search for a long-term manager itself or hire an outside group, such as Eaton Peabody Consulting or Maine Municipal Association, to advertise the opening and sift through applicants. Friedman said he felt Veazie could handle the search on its own and shouldn’t need to pay money for someone else to do the work, but the council would discuss all its options next week. Read more at the Bangor Daily News.

Dewey Beach, Delaware (population 341): Dewey Beach Town Manager Diana Smith will no longer be a staple at town hall or take her seat at the middle of the council table at commissioners’ monthly meetings. At a Sept. 9 meeting, Dewey Beach Town Council voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Diane Hanson to accept Smith’s resignation, effective immediately. After the vote, Hanson and Commissioner Jim Laird would only say the issue was resolved confidentially. Smith did not attend the meeting or return calls for comment. Her town hall email has been disabled. Commissioner Rick Solloway said in an email potential litigation played a role in the decision to let Smith go. Solloway said he recommended council vote to keep Smith on for a 30-day transition period, but he said the majority of commissioners voted against the idea. Smith sent an Aug. 22 letter to commissioners, requesting termination from her employment because, she said, certain council members micromanaged her official duties. Smith wrote a May 19 email to town attorney Glenn Mandalas, saying she had a right to terminate her employment agreement for good reason, meaning she would collect a severance package of half her annual salary. Smith was hired Feb. 1, 2010, with a starting salary of $70,000. Council voted 3-2 to appoint Mark Allen as interim town manager until council hires a permanent replacement. Allen holds a master’s degree in business administration from Penn State. He said his 25-year career as a naval officer and his own company, a motor sports firm, have given him the leadership skills needed to help the town through the transition. He said his own company, Mark Allen Racing, gave him valuable experience in finance. According to Commissioner Zeke Przygocki, Allen was one of two residents who sent resumes to town hall to apply for the temporary position. Solloway said he believes Allen will work hard to allow a smooth transition. Hanson and Commissioner Marty Seitz opposed Allen’s appointment. Hanson said in an email it served no purpose to explain her vote. Town council unanimously voted Sept. 2 to put commissioners Jim Laird and Marty Seitz in charge of creating a committee to search for a new town manager. Laird and Seitz are the only members of council who are not up for re-election. Betty Laird was appointed chairwoman of the town manager search committee. Laird is chairwoman of the policy committee and wife of Commissioner Jim Laird, who abstained from the vote to appoint her. Laird was chairwoman of the search committee that ended in the hiring of Smith. Read more at the Cape Gazette.