Transitions: Luzerne County, PA; Port Orange, FL; Decatur County, GA and more

Luzerne County, Pennsylvania (population 320,918): After a six-day, 2,800-mile drive from California, Robert Lawton is settling into a Kingston rental and preparing for his high-profile position as Luzerne County government’s first professional manager under home rule, according to The Times Leader. Lawton said he has been monitoring county developments from afar, but won’t take positions on any pending issues until he gathers and discusses information that will be available after he starts the $110,000 position. Under home rule, the manager oversees daily operations and many duties previously handled by three elected commissioners. Employees should expect a lot of interaction with the new chief. He praised Interim Manager Tom Pribula, who accepted the temporary leadership post when home rule was officially enacted Jan. 2. Daily monitoring of the county budget is necessary, and Lawton said he will ensure the council and public are regularly updated on spending and revenue – both current and projected through the rest of the year. He also will report on steps taken to control costs. Lawton plans regular meetings with department heads and senior management to explain his own directives and hear their ideas. He said he’s open to all feasible suggestions to make county government more efficient. Lawton also wants to develop an open dialogue with union workers to discuss county finances and “what lies ahead.”

Port Orange, Florida (population 45,823): Ken Parker, one of the state’s longest tenured city managers, has announced he will retire at this time next year, leaving the position he’s held in Port Orange since 1984, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal. He said he thought about other options for his life, including travel with his wife, volunteer work and spending more time with his grandchildren. Recently, Parker, acting as the city’s hearing officer, fired Warren Pike, the city’s longtime public works director, after he acknowledged giving his teenage son the access code to the yard, where thousands of dollars of merchandise was later determined to have been stolen.

Decatur County, Georgia (population 27,842): County Administrator Tom Patton resigned by telephone Tuesday night, during a two-hour executive session that followed the regular meeting of the Decatur County Board of Commissioners, according to The Post-Searchlight. Patton was not present for either the 5:30 p.m. work session, or the 7 p.m. meeting. The executive session lasted from 8:10 p.m. until 10:10 p.m., when the board came back into open session and announced that they had accepted Patton’s resignation. County Chairman Dr. C.T. Stafford said it was a “negotiated resignation” that the board immediately accepted. Stafford also said Patton would receive a $29,400 lump-sum payment in the coming days, which includes accumulated unused personal and sick time. Stafford said that this decision was best for the overall welfare of the county. Patton’s resignation is a result of the controversy surrounding his alleged failure to report a sewage spill at the Decatur County wastewater treatment plant in February 2011. Earlier Tuesday night, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners publicly addressed the spill, which some commissioners alleged had been “covered up” by County Administrator Tom Patton and County Finance Director Carl Rowland. The spill has been the source of controversy for the county in recent weeks. According to commissioners, there was a spill at the wastewater treatment plant in February 2011, although the exact magnitude of that spill is uncertain.  However, it was reportedly severe enough that Board Chairman C.T. Stafford, County Attorney Brown Moseley and wastewater treatment facility engineer Stacy Watkins took a trip to Atlanta last Friday to meet with officials at the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. Stafford said Tuesday that the county would be cited for the spill, but no major fines would be levied. Stafford said he was first notified of the spill in February 2011, shortly after it occurred. However, several commissioners expressed their concern that they were not told about the spill until many months after its occurrence. Commissioner Oliver Sellers said he was not told about the February 2011 spill until one year later. In April 2011, the EPD ordered the county to address the issue of raw sewage allegedly finding its way into the Flint River as a result of problems at the county’s wastewater treatment plant. Decatur County Commissioners agreed to pay a $15,000 fine and take steps to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant, which is about 30 years old. Commissioner Dr. David C. “Butch” Mosely, who served as the board chairman in 2011, said he did not know about the spill until December 2011. He also noted that Watkins had told him that the upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant were not proceeding in a timely matter. Mosely said there was a “cover-up” to keep the news of the spill under wraps. He also stated that both the county’s wastewater treatment permits, as well as the EPD consent order, require that all spills must be reported, regardless of severity. Commissioner Frank Loeffler said the county was lucky to avoid harsh penalties. Commissioner Russell Smith said he did not feel there was a “cover-up,” but did admit there could have been better communication.

Ontario, Oregon (population 11,366): The city of Ontario will be looking for a new administrator as City Manager Henry Lawrence announced Wednesday he has accepted a city manager position with the city of Eagle Point, located northeast of Medford in Jackson County, according to The Argus Observer. With a population of nearly 8,500, Eagle Point is smaller than Ontario. Lawrence said the new position offered a good career opportunity. He was one of four people interviewed for the position, according to the Medford Mail Tribune. Lawrence said he is proud of all that has been accomplished with the City Council and other officials and staff during his tenure, mentioning particularly the city’s stronger financial position. Department directors and managers will be working closely with the mayor and City Council to determine how the council wishes to handle this interim transition period between city managers, Lawrence said.

Rockland, Maine (population 7,609): Rockland City Council has offered the job of City Manager to James Smith of Greenbush, Maine, and Smith has accepted the position, according to The Free Press. Mayor Brian Harden made the announcement on Monday afternoon. A formal vote on a resolve to hire Smith, along with the signing of an employment agreement, has been scheduled for a special City Council meeting next Monday, March 5. Smith is a Maine native who has been serving as Assistant City Manager in Brewer since 2007. He is a graduate of the University of Maine Orono with a BA in public administration. Prior to attending college, Smith served 10 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. While working in Brewer, Smith was active on committees of the Maine Municipal Association and as a local community volunteer. He is married with four children and will move with his family to Rockland after the end of the current school year. Harden said that Smith is very enthusiastic about coming to Rockland and is planning to begin the new job on Monday, April 2.

Santa Clara, Utah (population 6,003): Santa Clara will welcome a new city manager next week to fill the vacancy left after former City Manager Wally Ritchie took a pitching coach job with Brigham Young University’s baseball team last fall, according to The Spectrum. Edward Dickie, a former Ivins city employee and the current North Ogden city manager, will step into the role Monday, taking over from Interim City Manager Brock Jacobson, who will fill the administrative services director position that has been vacant since Barbara Salmon retired last summer. Mayor Rick Rosenberg said the city received 39 applications for the job, which were narrowed down to a “short list” of seven people for final interviews. Rosenberg said Santa Clara notified Dickie of its decision in January but gave him time to give North Ogden his notice and work through the management transition. As city manager, Dickie will supervise the day-to-day operations of the city’s departments and their directors. Rosenberg said Dickie’s experience in North Ogden for the past four years was a selling point during the selection process. Dickie said he was Ivins’ administrative services director and assistant to the city manager before moving north, but he kept his Ivins home and rented it to his parents. After using a few days of vacation time from his North Ogden job to start work in Santa Clara, he’ll return to northern Utah to officially finish his job there on March 9, then his wife and four children will move back to Southern Utah with him, he said. Although he will live in Ivins, Dickie acknowledged that Santa Clara officials would like him to move into their city limits once the dust settles.

Sergeant Bluff, Iowa (population 4,467): City Administrator Jim Ferneau is leaving in April to be the City Manager of Burlington, Iowa, according to KTIV.  Burlington’s population is six times the size of Sergeant Bluff. Originally from Marshalltown, Ferneau has held the City Administrator’s job for four years. He’s proudest of the projects the city has undertaken during that time.

Minonk, Illinois (population 2,168): The same Minonk City Council that cast a vote of no confidence in Doug Elder accepted his resignation as city administrator, according to the Journal Star. Elder resigned Monday night during a special council meeting. Elder had come under criticism recently from council members who alleged he had communication problems with them and with the public. When contacted Tuesday, Elder had little comment. The terms of his resignation included a mutual non-disparagement clause. According to his resignation agreement, Elder will be paid and receive benefits through July 7. Elder’s resignation culminates a tumultuous month that included the City Council’s 4-2 no-confidence vote last week during its regular meeting. Many of the city responsibilities Elder held will fall to Koos, whose mayoral job is part time. Elder’s former position is full time. Other city employees will fill breaches, according to Koos. Elder’s departure comes at a particularly inopportune time organizationally, with budget planning under way. The current fiscal year ends April 30. Before Elder’s hiring, Minonk had not had a city administrator for about two years. Koos said he has no timetable for finding Elder’s replacement.

Wayzata, Minnesota (population 1,998): Heidi Nelson will become the next city manager in Wayzata, according to the Star Tribune. Nelson is deputy city administrator and community development director in the city of Ramsey, in Anoka County. She also serves as executive director of Ramsey’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Nelson will take over from Al Orsen, who will retire in April after 36 years in Wayzata, first as city engineer and as city manager since 1985. Several panels of city staff members, City Council members and citizens at large evaluated the candidates from an initial pool of 77 applicants. Wayzata Mayor Ken Willcox called Nelson “a high energy, enthusiastic and community-engaged leader” who will bring fresh perspective and experience in economic development to the west metro community in Hennepin County.

Troutman, North Carolina (population 1,592): Troutman Town Manager David Saleeby announced his retirement at a special meeting of the town’s Board of Aldermen on Wednesday, according to the Statesville Record & Landmark. Saleeby, 58, has been with the town since 2006, three years after he retired from Duke Energy. Saleeby said he has lived in Troutman all of his adult life and that his wife, Janie, is a native. Saleeby added that he would stay involved in the town. That involvement includes helping current Town Finance Director Steve Shealy transition to his new duties as interim town manager. Saleeby said the Board of Aldermen would start a search for a new manager soon. Saleeby said the town is in “excellent shape” and that it has “one of the best police departments” in Iredell County. He credited the town staff and the Board of Aldermen for maintaining a tightly run and efficient government.

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