Transitions: Arlington, TX; Henry County, GA; West Sacramento, CA and more

“When you get in it and you’re in that groove and it’s working, it is a very fulfilling thing from a career standpoint and a public service standpoint.”–Morehead City Manager Randy Martin

Arlington, Texas (population 365,438): After conducting a national search for a new city manager, Arlington City Council members stayed close to home for their choice, according to the Star-Telegram. Deputy City Manager Trey Yelverton, 44, who has worked for the city since 1993, was promoted to the top job at the end of Tuesday’s council work session. Yelverton has been deputy city manager since 2006, overseeing departments including economic development, community services, parks and recreation, libraries, and police and fire. Previously, he was neighborhood services director. Yelverton earned a bachelor’s degree in political science-public administration from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1988 and a master’s from the University of North Texas in 1989. The council will vote on Yelverton’s contract at a later date, Cluck said. Last week, the council met twice to review 53 applicants. Councilman Robert Rivera said Yelverton, whose accomplishments include facilitating the Cowboys Stadium project and Super Bowl XLV bid, was an obvious choice.

Henry County, Georgia (population 203,922): During a called meeting last week, the Henry County Board of Commissioners appointed District 2 Commissioner Fred Auletta to the position of county manager, recently held by Butch Sanders, who turned in his resignation, according to Neighborhood Newspapers. With nearly 45 years of management and financial experience and an intimate knowledge of the county’s budget situation, Auletta is the ideal choice for the position, ensuring the county can effectively plan for the next fiscal year without missing a beat in spite of the anticipated decline in the tax digest. And at a called meeting last Friday, the commissioners named Brian Preston to fill the seat vacated by Auletta when he stepped down from the board earlier last week. Preston was one of seven people considered for the appointment. Others on the list included Roy Clack, Dan Judson, Arley Lowe, John Palmer, Brian Strickland and Kathy Watts. In anticipation of the appointment, Auletta submitted his letter of resignation to the Governor’s office earlier this week. He is also stepping down from his position at Bennett International, where he has been successful in broadening their base, increasing sales and improving the company’s profit margin even in this down economy. Also during last Friday’s called meeting, the board named District 3 Commissioner Randy Stamey as vice-chairman.

West Sacramento, California (population 37,642): West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon announced that City Manager Toby Ross plans to retire before July 1, according to The Sacramento Bee. Since assuming the city manager’s post in November 2002, Ross has overseen numerous projects and programs. City officials cited among his accomplishments major retail development in the north and south areas of the city, with anchor tenants such as IKEA, Walmart, Nugget and Target. They also cited development of the downtown into a government center encompassing City Hall, the Arthur F. Turner Yolo County Library, a satellite facility for Sacramento City College and a City Community Center. Before coming to West Sacramento, Ross was city manager for Park City, Utah, for 13 years.

Fulton County, Illinois (population 37,069): Only the Fulton County Board would break off a long-term relationship on Valentine’s Day, according to the Journal Star. The tally was 11-6 to notify Fulton County Administrator Mike Hays that the board does not intend to renew its vows in September. This is the second time he was left standing with an altered contract. His most recent agreement was struck after last-minute negotiating last fall, after a similar board decision. Allegedly, the break-up is not about love, but money. George Hall explained that Hays has a one-year contract which expires Sept. 13. Under the terms of that contract, Hays must be given at least 180 days notice if the board does not intend to renew. Otherwise, the contract automatically renews for another year. Hall maintains the county cannot guarantee it will have the funds for an administrator in the future. Hays makes $76,915 a year. Steve Conklin disputed that explanation. He called it ironic that the board approved hiring a new clerical assistant in the administrator’s office at the same meeting. Conklin is a member of the finance committee. He said if getting rid of Hays was a financial move, it should have been discussed by that group, but it was only discussed by the executive committee. Hays himself said little, except that it is common for county administrators to have severance or long-term provisions because they work in politically volatile situations. He said he told the board he intends to seek other employment, but will work hard in the seven months remaining on his contract.

Burlington, Iowa (population 25,663): After two days of interviews, the Burlington City Council Saturday named James Ferneau, 44, its new city manager, according to The Hawk Eye. Ferneau, city administrator of Sergeant Bluff since 2008, will start his new job in Burlington April 23, after a 60-day notice. Ferneau, who has been city administrator of Sergeant Bluff since 2008, will start his new job in Burlington April 23, following a 60-day notice to his current employer. Six candidates had an individual two-hour community orientation tour, met with a citizen’s panel and had an hourlong interview with city council members. Mayor Jim Davidson said the council and the panel were in agreement about hiring Ferneau once the interviews were over. Mayor Jim Davidson said the council and the panel were in agreement about hiring Ferneau. Ferneau has more to offer than a solid grasp on the budget, though. Davidson said the man is very personable. Mayor Pro Tem Christopher Reed said Ferneau stood out right away from the other candidates. Ferneau was headed back home Saturday night and is looking forward to bringing eight of his nine children back with him. The council has scheduled a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. Thursday to officially adopt a resolution approving Ferneau’s employment agreement. The public is encouraged to attend. Ferneau is a native Iowan and said he will spend the first several weeks of his new job getting to know the staff and the community, as well as identifying the biggest issues that need to be dealt with. He said Burlington is comparable to his hometown of Marshalltown in many ways. He has 11 years of city management experience, having worked as city manager of Fairbury, Neb., before moving to Sergeant Bluff. Police Chief Dan Luttenegger has been interim city manager since Doug Worden retired at the end of December. Luttenegger and the council are still working on the fiscal year 2013 budget, which will be approved before Ferneau comes on board. Ferneau said given realities in municipalities’ budgets, the old way of doing things doesn’t work. He said addressing challenges means thinking outside the box, like sharing services with other entities and streamlining services. Ferneau was selected from six finalists recruited by Voorhees Associates from a field of 66 applicants. Davidson said he sees a bright future ahead for Burlington with Ferneau at the helm.

Marina, California (population 19,718): A letter laying out the rationale for City Manager Tony Altfeld’s pending ouster is short — one paragraph — and says the only reason is the city and Altfeld have failed to agree on pay issues, according to The Monterey County Herald. Responding to Altfeld’s request for written reasons for his pending March 7 termination, an Oakland labor attorney hired by the City Council to handle dealings with the embattled chief executive replied last Friday. The Feb. 17 letter from attorney Edward Kreisberg told Altfeld the sole reason for his pending removal was that he and the City Council could not agree on appropriate pay and severance terms for a new contract. Altfeld makes about $203,000 a year and his contract calls for 12 months of severance pay if he is let go. The city code, however, appears to cap a dismissed city manager’s severance pay at four months. Altfeld’s attorney, Mark O’Connor, took issue Tuesday with the reason given in the city’s letter. He said Altfeld had agreed to the City Council’s “last and best offer” on compensation and severance terms. O’Connor said the letter fell short of adequately disclosing “the information that bears on the reason” for Altfeld’s planned termination. Kreisberg didn’t return a phone message Tuesday. The council today will consider scheduling a public hearing sought by Altfeld on his termination for its March 6 meeting, the day before the city manager is supposed to go.

Safety Harbor, Florida (population 16,884): The Safety Harbor City Commission voted Monday night on a three-year contract with former City Manager Matt Spoor that brings him back at the same salary, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Spoor resigned in early January for a job with St. Petersburg but recently asked for his old job back. Commissioners unanimously agreed to an annual salary of $122,763 for the returning city manager. “Congratulations, Mr. Spoor. It’s good to have you back,” said Mayor Andy Steingold.

Green River, Wyoming (population 12,515): Longtime Green River City administrator Barry Cook has resigned, according to KUGR News. Green River mayor Hank Castillion said Cook handed him his resignation letter Thursday night. Castillion says the letter will be forwarded to the City council for discussion and action at there upcoming Tuesday night meeting. Castillion says he could not comment on what the next step will be for the city until the council has an opportunity to discuss Cook’s resignation. Cook has served the city for over 15 years.

Vidor, Texas (population 10,579): Ricky Jorgensen, Vidor city manager, is ending his seven year tenure with the city on March 9, according to The Record Live. He’ll be the new city manager of Giddings, a city on Highway 290 that is 40 miles south of Austin. Jorgensen said he looks forward to the move for two reasons: his daughter and his three-month-old grandchild live in Austin and also Giddings has its own water, sewer and electrical works utilities. Jorgensen feels the city has accomplished much in his stay in Vidor. Some of those accomplishments that stand out to him include completing two property annexations that allowed the city to grow, building the Joe Hopkins Memorial Park, building a new city hall, using Hotel Occupancy Tax money to improve the quality of life in an effective way and more revenues coming in. In fact, the city is close to balancing its budget for the first time in years, he said. The city council has also reached the halfway mark in the zoning process for the city. The city council and the Vidor Police Association also agreed upon a new contract two years ago. Another round of police contract negotiations will begin again either in May or June of this year. Advertising for a new city manager for Vidor has begun with notices on the Texas Municipal League, the Texas Managers Association websites and newspapers.

Taft, California (population 9,327): City Manager Bob Gorson resigned unexpectedly Tuesday night, apparently during an evaluation by the Taft City Council, according to the Taft Midway Driller. Gorson turned in his keys and was escorted from the building. Mayor Randy Miller confirmed the announcement Wednesday morning. Public Works Director Craig Jones was named interim city manager. Miller and City Attorney David Prentice were going to meet with city staff Wednesday morning to discuss the sudden resignation. Gorson’s  evaluation was on the agenda for a closed session prior to the 7 p.m. regular meeting, but it was postponed until after the regular open session. The council adjourned into closed session with Gorson and Prentice about 8:20 p.m.

Franklin, Virginia (population 8,812): After taking the Franklin city manager’s job on a three-month interim basis, June Fleming on Tuesday will return to retirement for what turned into a 3½-year stint, according to the Tidewater News. Fleming, who retired as city manager of Palo Alto, Calif., and moved to Franklin in 2000, applied for the interim position in 2008 when former City Manager Bucky Taylor left. The City Council searched for a city manager when she came on, but didn’t get a good pool of candidates. Randy Martin, the city manager for Morehead City, N.C., will start on Tuesday, Feb. 21. (See story below.) Fleming said she has enjoyed her time with the city and has no regrets. A member of High Street United Methodist Church, she plans to volunteer for the church and spend more time with family. She will represent Franklin on the Paul D. Camp Community College Board of Directors. Mayor Jim Councill wished Fleming well in retirement. A Little Rock, Ark., native, Fleming married her husband, Roscoe, 46 years ago. The couple has a daughter each and adopted a son together. Fleming began her city government career with the Palo Alto Public Library before working her through the ranks to city manager. She was with the City of Palo Alto for more than 30 years. Fleming took over at a crucial time when the city was trying to become more fiscally responsible, said Councilman Benny Burgess. He said Fleming helped clean up the budgeting process.  Fleming said one of the biggest challenges she faced in her time was managing the economic downturn. She also oversaw the restructuring of city debt and was able to take positions out of the budget that had never been filled. Councilman Barry Cheatham said Fleming came to the city when her leadership was “sorely needed.”

Morehead City, North Carolina (population 7,440): The life of a public servant often means change, but for departing Morehead City Manager Randy Martin there has been a constant during his 16-year tenure with the town: a shared vision of the town council, the staff, the manager and the community, according to the Jacksonville Daily News. It’s a valued combination in a local government career. Add in the fact that it’s the place where he and his wife, Sheila, have raised their three sons and where they’ve become part of the community, and Martin said he has never lost his enthusiasm for the job or the town. Martin is retiring after working more than 30 years in local government in North Carolina and will continue his public service work for a while longer with a new job as city manager in Franklin, Va. With half of his North Carolina career in Morehead City, there are many projects and accomplishments that come up in conversation: the restoration of the downtown train depot, the Radio Island Water Access, the acquisition of Sugarloaf Island, and the construction of a new police department and new fire department facilities to name a few of the most visible ones. There have also been major upgrades to town utilities, including a new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant, a 10-year project said to be the largest in the town’s history. One of the areas in which Martin says he is most proud is the expansion of the town’s parks and recreation facilities and programs. In numbers, the amount of town-owned public recreation space as grown from less than 5 acres to close to 80. The town’s recreation center has been fully renovated, water accesses have been added, bike paths and multi-use trails are well used and ball fields and playgrounds have been constructed, from Rotary Park and Shevans Park to the new baseball field at Big Rock Stadium, which serves as home to the Morehead City Marlins, a summer college baseball team. Martin said the successes the town has seen are the result of a cooperative effort. As he retires from his Morehead City duties, Martin’s biggest compliment to the town is that his family considers it home and it’s the place where he plans to return when he retires again. Martin’s last day on the job will be Monday. The town has hired Peter Connet, a retired city manager, to serve on an interim basis while the town council conducts a search for a new manager.

High Springs, Florida (population 5,552):  In an unannounced move Feb. 9, the High Springs Commission appointed Jeri Langman to the permanent position of City Manager, according to Alachua County Today.  Although it was not on the agenda, commissioners made the appointment during the final moments of the meeting, raising concerns among several people in attendance that the matter should have been deferred and taken up after being advertised to the public. Despite harsh criticism from some, on a motion placed on the floor by Vice Mayor Barnas and seconded by Commissioner Linda Gestrin, commissioners approved the measure in a 3-1 vote.  Mayor Dean Davis also supported the appointed while Commissioner Sue Weller cast the only vote against it. It was during that workshop before the regularly scheduled commission meeting that it was reported that the only remaining candidate in the running for the job, W.D. Higginbotham, Jr., withdrew from the process. Langman was hired as the interim city manager in December at a salary of $4,000 monthly without benefits.  She replaced Jenny Parham, who served as interim city manager and was compensated about $1,500 monthly in addition to her role as city clerk.  Langman will drop the interim from her title, but will see a marked increase in compensation.  In approving the change, commissioners also gave Langman an annual salary of $55,000 plus benefits. The appointment did not come without heated criticism from several people calling on the commission to reconsider the action.  Most of those speaking out in opposition to the appointment urged the commission to restart the city manager selection process.  Others, however, lauded the commission and encouraged their fellow residents to stand behind Langman and the city. Barnas said he was pleased with Langman and didn’t want to search for another city manager.  But numerous people spoke out against aborting the search for a city manager, including resident Laura Graetz who said the city needs a city manager with the proper qualifications to run a city. Graetz referenced an employment advertisement for the city manager position, in which the desired qualifications are outlined.  Among them are 3-5 years of responsible municipal government experience, professional management experience and economic development experience.  Linda Jones said she voted for Barnas and Gestrin but accused the duo of switching their positions. Other residents, including Bob Hallman, supported the commission’s move and blamed the city’s prior administration for harming its financial position. Hallman also said unrest in the community might be explained by what he considers inaccurate news reporting.  Hallman did tell the commission that he thought there was some “serious staff problems” at the City.  But he supported the appointment of Langman. Resident and employee Don Alderman said he was pleased with the direction of the City, but warned that the commission’s swift actions on Thursday might not be perceived by the public in a positive light, and therefore, motivate people to replace commissioners.  After Barnas made the motion during the City Commissioner Comments portion of the meeting to appoint Langman, former City Attorney and High Springs resident Thomas DePeter sharply criticized the move. Another criticism came online as former commissioner Eric May noted on his blog site that in making the appointment during commission comments, they violated the city’s own rules.  According to section 4(L) of the city commission’s Rules of Procedures, “Final action can only be taken if the City Commission waives its Rules of Procedures.”  That waiver never occurred.  Although there appears to be a violation of the city’s own rules, the appointment of Langman is unlikely to be successfully contested as the rules are not state law. Langman’s appointment was effective immediately.

Osceola, Iowa (population 4,614): A separation agreement was signed with Osceola City Administrator Bill Kelly last week after the city council held a special closed session, according to the Osceola Sentinel-Tribune. Kelly was placed on administrative paid leave by the council for disorderly conduct after Kelly acted in a disruptive manner during a recent budget meeting. However, Mayor Fred Diehl said there were other previous actions of Kelly that led to the council’s final decision. The council voted 5-1 to terminate Kelly’s contract and enter into the separation agreement. Councilmember Glenn Schaff said he was in favor of terminating Kelly, however, he was not in favor of the agreement package the council approved. Kelly served as city administrator for five years. City Clerk Ty Wheeler will be filling in temporarily as administrator. Diehl said although Wheeler is young he feels it’ll be a good opportunity for him. According to the agreement, the employment contract, entered into with Kelly in November 2007, will be terminated without cause. The city’s 60-day notice of termination was issued, effective Feb. 17, and the date of termination will be Apr. 17. The agreement states that after the date of termination, “the city shall issue to the employee payment of severance equal to six months salary, six months of insurance benefits, and accrued vacation less any applicable employee insurance contributions.” In addition, the city agrees to allow Kelly to reside at his home through Oct. 17 under the pre-existing agreement reached in November 2009. However, the city won’t compensate Kelly for the rental value of the residence in the event Kelly moves prior to Oct. 17. The agreement states the employee agrees to waive any and all legal claims against the city.

Grosbeck, Texas (population 4,040): A long time City Administrator announced her resignation Tuesday at a city council meeting in Groesbeck, according to Our Town Grosebeck.Martha Stanton worked for the city for 38 years. City Council members in Groesbeck accepted Stanton’s resignation Tuesday night. Stanton’s last day working with the city will be March 31. The Groesbeck resident plans to stay in town, and find something to do to keep her busy. Jonestown, Texas (population 2,237): The Jonestown City Council voted unanimously Friday to accept the resignation of City Administrator Dan Dodson , who had been named in an ongoing grand jury investigation of a failed wind energy project, according to the Statesman. Court filings from October 2011 said Charlie Malouff Jr., founder of CM Energies, and Mary Jo Woodall, a former state comptroller’s office staffer and grant administrator, conspired to illegally obtain up to $2 million in federal stimulus money by overselling CM Energies’ ability to deliver the electricity-generating wind turbines. Dodson was named in court documents because of his involvement in the project. Dodson was named as the “project director,” “principal investigator” and “designated responsible employee” for the City of Jonestown on the grant paperwork, and he was warned by CM Energies employees that the windmill company couldn’t provide the technology for the wind turbines, authorities said in court documents. The city has filed a lawsuit against CM Energies, which was supposed to manufacture and install wind turbines for the city. Council members said Friday that city officials would continue to work with investigators involved in the case. Dodson, who has worked as city administrator since 2007 , didn’t appear in public during Friday’s meeting when council members met in executive session to discuss his employment. At the Feb. 9 council meeting, council members said they had received Dodson’s resignation letter but took no action at the time. In December, the council had decided against extending Dodson’s $80,000 annual contract. At the time, council members said Dodson would remain in his position without a contract because of his experience and his involvement in ongoing city projects. On Friday, the council also instructed city staff to begin advertising for a new city administrator, who would start May 1, if not sooner. Dodson would remain available as a consultant to the City of Jonestown, council members said. Alderman Joe Aaron said Friday that the last time the council looked for a city administrator, the process took more than five months. Dodson didn’t return a phone call on Friday seeking comment.

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