Transitions: Charlotte, NC; Savannah, GA; Goodyear, AZ and more

Curt Walton

Curt Walton

Charlotte, North Carolina (population 1,758,038): Charlotte City Manager Curt Walton is planning to retire at the end of the year, according to multiple city officials, according to WCNC. Walton, who was named manager in 2007 when Pam Syfert retired, led the city through the economic downturn mostly unscathed. He made a number of small cuts to balance the city’s budget, but the city was able to avoid large reductions that other cities nationwide had to face. Earlier this year, Walton unveiled an ambitious $926 million capital plan that would have invested in the city’s low-income neighborhoods. But the plan failed to get council support and hasn’t been enacted yet. The City Council is now trying again to pass a capital improvement program. Walton was picked by council members in 2007 over Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble and former Assistant City Manager Keith Parker, who now heads up the transit system in San Antonio.

Savannah, Georgia (population 186,236): The half dozen or so Savannah-Chatham police officers proved unnecessary Thursday, according to the Savannah Morning News. A subdued audience of about three dozen filled Savannah City Council chambers for a special meeting to determine the fate of City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney. Her official tenure ended with little of the turmoil associated with her 18 months of management and with none of the vocal protest that punctuated the last week after Mayor Edna Jackson had asked for her resignation. After a 90-minute executive session, Jackson resumed the public meeting by stating she had received Small-Toney’s written resignation about 8:30 that morning. Three times, Jackson invited anyone who wanted to speak to come to the microphone. Only one woman did, and her final question to council was one they had wrestled with, publicly and privately, for weeks: “Is there any way that this could have been avoided?” The time for that question had passed, though. In two quick votes, council members accepted the resignation and appointed Assistant City Manager Stephanie Cutter as acting city manager. The vote on resignation was 6-3, with staunch Small-Toney supporters John Hall, Estella Shabazz and Mary Osborne voting against. The vote for Cutter was unanimous. Under the charter, she can serve for three months before council needs to name a replacement or extend her service. Mayor Pro Tem Van Johnson and Alderman Tony Thomas echoed the assessment that council need not rush a search for a replacement. Jackson, initially one of Small-Toney’s strongest supporters, admitted it was a difficult time for all involved. She thanked Small-Toney for her five years of city service, and later said the decision was not meant to hurt her but needed to come because “this fit was not for her at this time.” Johnson regretted the outcome, but saw little other choice. Shabazz, Hall and Osborne had all acknowledged the mismanagement rippling through city departments, and Shabazz and Osborne had asked some of the more pointed questions during council reviews. What they could not support was removing Small-Toney without giving her more time to correct problems. The city manager was reprimanded Aug. 31 after revelations about her failure to adhere to travel policy and a Purchasing Department overrun with payment problems. Council asked for immediate improvement. They stipulated that within 90 days they would provide her a comprehensive evaluation of her performance. Other missteps, though, quickly followed, including a letter that threatened Cutter with termination if she could not address problems in the Purchasing Department. Current and former Purchasing employees say that though their department fell under Cutter’s supervision, Small-Toney had direct involvement and allowed Cutter no decision making. On Sept. 26, in a special work session, a majority of council supported the mayor’s request for the city manager’s resignation. Hall opposed it then as he did Thursday. Hall does not believe the divided vote will have a lingering effect for council, and by the end of the regular meeting a relaxed banter, missing for weeks, had returned. Thomas also believes the full council is ready to return to issues other than day-to-day management of the city. He and other council members had called for, and were assured by Incoming City Attorney Brooks Stillwell, that an audit of funds would occur and that such a step was a normal practice anytime a chief executive officer left an organization. The satisfaction in seeing Cutter named acting city manager was immediate. Council members, employees and residents credit her with being fair, honest and hard-working. Cutter, 55, has been a city employee for 23 years. She rose through the ranks, first as a budget analyst, later as director of the Sanitation Department and for the last two years serving as an assistant city manager. For the last year, she has overseen the bureaus of Management Services and Community and Economic Development. She’s a Savannah native, grew up in Liberty City and graduated from Windsor Forest High School and what was then Savannah State College. She does not want the city manager’s job on a permanent basis. Even in Sanitation, known as one of the more rough-and-tumble, demanding city departments, she earned widespread respect for balancing her expectation that the job get done well with her fairness toward employees. Lamonica Golden, an equipment operator in Sanitation, recalled an incident years ago when a distraught employee wasn’t sure how she could get her handicapped daughter to a special school and keep her work schedule. Cutter rearranged the woman’s schedule so she would be able to take her daughter to school. No one, Golden said, should mistake Cutter’s soft-spoken tone with an inability to lead. In her letter of resignation, Small-Toney stated the terms of her departure. She will receive six months’ pay and, as any employee would, credit for accrued vacation pay. She may be entitled to more pay than she realizes. In a letter dated March 2012, Jackson outlined Small-Toney’s compensation plan approved by the new council. It included a 2 percent salary increase retroactive to January. City staff, including the Clerk of Council and Human Resources, never got a copy of that letter, and Small-Toney’s pay throughout this year remained at $190,575. It should have been $194,386. At that rate, her six months’ pay would be $97,193. Bret Bell, the city’s spokesman, said no one could immediately explain why the raise hadn’t taken effect, but it would be researched. Small-Toney also notified the mayor she would schedule a time to return all city property she has and would vacate her office in five days.

Goodyear, Arizona (population 66,275): The Goodyear City Council on Monday unanimously appointed Brian Dalke the permanent city manager, according to the Arizona Republic. Dalke has filled the position on an interim basis since March after former City Manager John Fischbach abruptly resigned. Dalke will earn $178,760 per year, plus benefits, to run a city with 66,309 residents. His contract runs through Dec. 31, 2013, the maximum time allowable under the city charter. Dalke’s base salary appears to be in line with those of other area city managers. In Avondale, a city of 77,518, City Manager Charlie McClendon earns $183,882 annually. Buckeye Town Manager Stephen Cleveland’s annual salary is $140,200. Buckeye has 61,649 residents. In Glendale, a city of 230,482, interim City Manager Horatio Skeete makes $208,450 annually. Under Dalke’s contract: The city will make an annual contribution to Dalke’s retirement plan that is equal to 10 percent of his salary. Dalke will receive 80 hours of executive leave, 96 hours of sick time and 160 hours of vacation each year. He can accrue as much as 320 hours of vacation and is eligible to accrue an unlimited amount of sick leave. The city manager will get a $400 per month automobile allowance, in addition to the same disability, health and life insurance granted to other city management employees. City leaders say they have high expectations. The City Council wants Dalke to focus on economic development that will create jobs and attract businesses that support existing industries within the city. He is also tasked with completing a strategic plan for the city and conducting an employee compensation study. Since Fischbach’s departure, several new managers have been hired to lead city departments. The Community Development and Economic Development departments were merged into a single Development Services Department. The new department includes the Building Safety Division, which is currently under the Fire Department. The moves allowed the city to reduce the number of department directors from three to one. The changes will lower salary costs and help Goodyear gear up for the next wave of growth, Dalke said. Dalke will run a city where only 10 percent of the land is developed. Goodyear is in discussions to land a couple of new companies by the end of 2012, he said. He declined to name them, but Dalke said the city will cultivate businesses in industries compatible with the F-35 pilot-training mission announced for Luke Air Force Base. Dalke said that he will run a transparent and efficient city and that he is interested in saving residents’ tax dollars. For example, when the city reduced bulk trash pickup from twice a month to once a month, it saved $300,000, he said. He said will also concentrate on improving quality of life for residents. The City Council on Monday appointed 24 residents to serve on the Goodyear 2025 General Plan Committee. They will work for 18 months on a long-range plan that must be ratified by voters before July 1, 2015. Before he was appointed, Mayor Georgia Lord thanked Dalke. It’s challenging to be in an interim position under difficult circumstances, she said. Fischbach resigned March 19 after a closed-door session with council members. The two sides agreed to part ways after a three-month performance review. Council members were concerned that emerging issues were not being handled according to expectations.

Flower Mound, Texas (population 64,669): After weeks of speculation, the Flower Mound Town Council unanimously voted to fire Town Manager Harlan Jefferson on Monday in a special meeting, according to the Carrollton Leader. Jefferson, who has been the town manager since 2006, was placed on paid administrative leave Sept. 22 during a special meeting. His contract was set to expire in October 2015. Chuck Springer, the town’s chief financial officer and assistant town manager, will remain the interim town manager until a permanent one is found. Jefferson was not at Monday’s meeting. Jefferson will receive 22 months severance per the terms of his contract, though an exact figure was not disclosed. According to his contract, Jefferson made an annual salary of $187,995. The contract states that if Jefferson is involuntarily terminated, he would be entitled to a severance equal to the total base salary, as well as “all accrued leave and town benefits, including but not limited to health insurance, vacation leave, sick leave and exempt leave.” The money will come from the town’s general fund, which Mayor Tom Hayden said currently sits at $9.6 million. Hayden said that at Jefferson’s request, the town has agreed to a mutual confidentiality provision as part of the formal settlement. While Hayden would not elaborate Monday on reasons for the council’s action, he did address the situation at the Oct. 1 council meeting. Later that week and before Monday’s vote, Hayden discussed a new direction. At the Sept. 22 meeting, Jefferson’s attorney, Don Colleluori, said Jefferson understands that it is the council’s right to terminate his contract, but he said Jefferson had not been given the opportunity to address any concerns the council had of him. Since then, sources have refuted that claim, citing several instances when Jefferson was aware of concerns. Among those were discussions at the town council strategic planning session and a council work session following the election in which the council outlined goals and discussed a desire to change the town’s direction in certain areas, including the working relationship the town has with developers. Colleluori also acknowledged the developer surveys in which area developers gave low marks to the town’s processes. But Colleluori said those processes are set by the council and that the town manager only enforces those. Others, however, have said the town manager has the right to make exceptions to help in the development process and that Jefferson did not. When asked last week if he agrees with Colleluori’s sentiment, Hayden pointed to the Oct. 1 meeting when David Watson of Direct Development discussed the issues his firm has had with the town when working on Cross Timbers Village. The development, located near the intersection of FM 1171 and Bruton Orand Boulevard, will include Tom Thumb, as well as two other buildings. Per the development agreement, landscaping was required to be installed around the property’s perimeter before a certificate of occupancy would be approved. Watson said his firm requested that the landscaping around the two buildings be allowed to be installed after the construction of the buildings since it would have to be torn up anyway during construction. Watson said the town staff denied that request, causing a delay in the project and adding extra cost. Watson also said his firm had to pull 33 permits for this project, noting that a similar project in Wylie has only required one permit. Watson also said the town required signatures from the owners of all property the construction crew had been on to verify that they left the property in good condition. Watson said that was a last-minute surprise and another hassle. Hayden said there have been several other instances in Flower Mound recently similar to what Watson described. Hayden said the search for a permanent town manager will begin immediately.

Hanford, California (population 53,967): The council is expected to appoint a new city manager and discuss an employment contract, according to the Hanford Sentinel. At the previous meeting, City Attorney Bob Dowd named Coalinga City Manager Darrel Pyle as the top candidate for the job. Pyle is expected to begin in late November or early December. It’s not know how much Pyle will be paid. Former City Manager Hilary Straus was paid $160,000 per year.

Bryan County, Georgia (population 31,377): Only moments after the Bryan County Board of Commissioners accepted the resignation of current County Administrator Phillip Jones during their meeting at the Bryan County Administrative Complex Tuesday, they voted unanimously to name south Bryan resident Ray Pittman as his successor, according to the Savannah Morning News. Pittman and William (Jason) Tinsley, the current Assistant County Administrator/Finance Director for Habersham County, had been named as the two finalists for the job on Sept. 18. The original field of 25 candidates was screened and charted by Jones, who presented them to the commissioners as a list. According to Jones, he, County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed, and Commissioners Carter Infinger and Jimmy Henderson participated in either all or some of the interviews. Jones added that because it is often difficult to get all the commissioners together at one time, interviews for department head positions in the Bryan County government are commonly conducted by a committee which then makes its recommendations to the entire board. There is no requirement for the entire board to interview candidates he said. However, any commissioner who wishes to participate can. However, if they all do, or enough to make a quorum do, a meeting would have to be called. Pittman has worked for Thomas and Hutton Engineering in Savannah for 27 years as an engineer and is a principal in the organization. He has an extensive background in sewer and water design/construction and has lived in Bryan County since 1986. He also chaired the committee that developed the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, the SPLOST and TSPLOST committees. Jones’ resignation becomes effective Dec. 31 of this year.

Garden City, Michigan (population 27,692): In a split decision, Garden City Council voted 4-3 last Monday evening to fire City Manager Darwin McClary, according to the Observer & Eccentric. Councilman Jim Kerwin made the motion, supported by Joanne Dodge. Councilmen David Fetter and Councilmen George Kordie also voted to terminate McClary. The vote was a mirror image of a vote in August to suspend the city manager. There wasn’t a collective reason for firing McClary although Fetter listed a number of his personal gripes that have accumulated through time. Fetter said that what the community sees McClary is just a sliver of himself. Fetter took issue with the first-time lighting assessment and that while the city administration said that the fee will not go up, the plans are now to increase it this year which he won’t support. Employees, who earlier negotiated raises, went to the city manager and on their own said that they would give up their raises but got a slow response. Fetter acknowledged that contract concessions were made. Fetter also complained that both he and Kordie asked if public informational meetings about the 3.5-mil police and fire millage, which passed in May, would be held prior to the election. Kordie said that when he did the math on evaluations, McClary was consistently below average. Kordie also said he couldn’t obtain information about grievances. He wanted to know when a grievance was about to go to arbitration because that costs the city money. He said that he also hasn’t been able to get satisfactory answers to citizen complaints. He added that if the council hadn’t pushed to only close city hall one day rather than two days a week the change would not have happened. Councilwomen Patricia Squires and Jaylee Lynch responded that they hadn’t heard some of the prior concerns before. The council is responsible for establishing policy and procedures and for passing budgets and only has two meetings a month, Lynch said. Lynch called the situation “unfortunate.” She noted that McClary’s assistant’s position was eliminated and he has less help. Walker called McClary’s firing a major decision. Walker, too, added that there were topics he hears which were not brought up to him before. After the vote, McClary, who received hugs from people in attendance, said that he was still trying to synthesize council’s criticisms and wished that these things had been brought up to him prior to the public hearing. He said earlier that evening that the “council and the administration have to work together for the benefit of the city.” Garden City Planning Commissioner Harriette Batchik considered McClary extremely knowledgeable about ordinances and state laws. For all McClary has done, it will take a lot of time for a new person to come up to speed, she said. Resident Kerry Partin was angry at the decision. Al Buckner, a Garden City resident who didn’t support McClary, said the amount of people who showed up at the meeting didn’t represent the public’s true feelings. He added that while the city will have to pay McClary six months of pay in his severance package, the city will save money later. He pointed out that Acting City Manager Robert Muery is only receiving $35 a day extra over his police chief salary. Buckner called the people who came to support McClary, “friends of the mayor.” Garden City Council didn’t discuss next steps after some council members voted to fire McClary. When Garden City Manager David Harvey left for another job, the council interviewed three candidates who were screened from a list of about 13 candidates. They hired McClary who first worked as an interim city manager for six months for the city. A formal candidate search was never conducted.

Greenfield, California (population 16,330): Greenfield appointed a new city manager on Tuesday who was fired as city manager in two Florida cities and spurred a national debate on transgender identity, according to KSBW. Susan Ashley Stanton, formerly named Steve Stanton, was the city manager of Largo, Fla., for 17 years until media outlets reported that she was going to undergo a sex change. In 2006, Steve Stanton was a 48-year-old man who was married, a father of a 13-year-old son, and a city manager in charge of 1,000 Largo employees. In January 2007, Stanton privately told the mayor and other top city officials that she wanted to become a woman. But an uproar by Largo residents and religious leaders ensued when Stanton was outed by an article published by the St. Petersburg Times, and Largo’s City Commission voted to terminate Staton’s employment just days after. Stanton had a $15,000 gender-reassignment surgery and changed her legal name soon after she was fired in Largo. She later became city manager in Lake Worth, Fla., where she worked from 2009 until she was abruptly fired last December. During Greenfield’s City Council meeting on Tuesday night, council members are expected to appoint Stanton to the post and give her a city-owned house in Greenfield. Greenfield Interim City Manager Brent Slama and Mayor John Huerta declined to comment on the city’s decision to hire Stanton.

Whitewater, Wisconsin (population 14,390): Whitewater’s new city manager, Cameron Clappper, said he is confident he can continue successes and projects handed down from his predecessor, according to the The Janesville Gazette. Clapper’s top priorities include the city’s annual budget and economic development. Cannon has decades of experience in local government, including serving as city administrator in Sun Prairie. Beyond the budget and economic development, Clapper said he wants to continue a tradition of open and transparent government and show that Whitewater city government continues to look for ways to be more efficient without degrading essential services. Whitewater city employees have cooperated in the thinning process, Clapper said, and that needs to be recognized. Clapper said he intends to work for and with the community.

Powder Springs, Georgia (population 13,940): The Powder Springs City Council on Monday switched the role of Brad Hulsey—who served as the city’s mayor for four years—from interim city manager to the long-term position, according to the WestCobbPatch. Hulsey beat out roughly 50 initial applicants and two other finalists: Raymon Gibson, who most recently served as city administrator for the city of Stockbridge for a year; and Terry Todd, whose most recent job was the city manager for the city of Palmetto for four years. The appointment—which comes with a $104,000 annual salary—was made on a 4-1 vote, with Councilwoman Nancy Hudson against, the Marietta Daily Journal reports. She declined to elaborate on her vote to the paper after the meeting. Hulsey was making $72,000 in the interim role, which he started after leaving his insurance business Brad A. Hulsey & Associates. There, as president and CEO over eight sales agents, he made $48,000 a year—meaning his salary has more than doubled in less than a year. Wizner said the choice will likely be followed by criticism because of the job description’s qualifications: “bachelor’s degree in public administration or related field; master’s degree in public administration preferred; eight years of increasingly responsible experience in municipal or county government, including five years in a senior management role; or equivalent combination of education and local government experience.” Hulsey has a high school diploma, took classes from Floyd Junior College and Georgia State University, and his government experience includes being a Rockmart councilman, Powder Springs councilman (1996-99) and mayor (2000-04), and the city’s interim city manager since February. Gibson has a master’s in business administration from Columbia Southern University, and his government experience includes Stockbridge’s city administrator and assistant city manager, and Henry County Department of Planning & Zoning’s director, assistant director, planner and chief planner. Todd has a master’s in business administration from the University of West Florida, and his government experience includes Palmetto’s city manager; a program director for government service provider CH2M Hill; Fulton County’s deputy county manager and public works director; and the director of the Growth Management Department, director of the Environmental Resources Management Department, and a Public Works Department engineer for Escambia County, Florida. Wizner pointed to the job description phrase “equivalent combination of education and local government experience” and noted that “the ultimate authority on qualifications for city manager is the City Charter section 2.27 that states, ‘The mayor and city council shall appoint a city manager for an indefinite term and shall fix his compensation. The manager shall be appointed solely on the basis of his executive and administrative qualifications and shall serve at the pleasure of the mayor and council.'” In his seven months as interim city manager, Hulsey “has done an oustanding job,” Wizner wrote. That job has included, among other things, balancing the fiscal 2013 budget. Meanwhile, Wizner said, “he took employee moral that was very low and turned it around. He has been active in the community and responsive to citizen’s concerns and issues. He has worked with the department heads to provide the best services for the city of Powder Springs.” The former city manager, Rick Eckert, resigned in mid-February after nearly two years with the city but received his full pay through the end of May as a consultant.

Waverly, Iowa (population 9,874): The Waverly City Council has extended an offer to Iowa native Philip Jones to serve as its next city administrator, according to the WCF Courier. If negotiations are finalized between Jones and the city, his contract may to approved as early as tonight. The Waverly City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Jones serves as utilities operations manager for Westminster, Colo., a city of 108,000 people. In that capacity, he leads 89 people and oversees an operating budget of $14.7 million and a capital budget of $2.3 million, according to Jones’ application. The Waverly council unanimously agreed to offer Jones the job after a multi-day interview process that included public and executive session meetings with finalists on Friday and Saturday. The city hired executive search firm Brimeyer Fursman LLC to help find a replacement for Waverly City Administrator Dick Crayne, who is set to retire Dec. 1. Brimeyer Fursman received 65 applications. The mayor and city council reviewed materials for 12 semi-finalists and selected five candidates to interview. Brunkhorst said the selection proved difficult as the search yielded a pool of qualified candidates. Jones, who completed his undergraduate work in public administration at the University of Northern Iowa, stood out for his people skills, management experience and long-term perspective, Brunkhorst said. If the city hires Jones, he would likely start in mid-November. That would allow him to shadow Crayne for two weeks.

Wells, Minnesota (population 2,343): Pending the outcome of a background check, the city of Wells will have a new city administrator, according to the Fairbault County Register. On Monday, the City Council unanimously voted to make an offer to Steve Bloom of Miltona – a small town located north of Alexandria. Bloom and two other finalists – Sarah Friesen of Minneota and Marc Dennison of Black Earth, Wis., – each answered 11 questions from council members during interviews held on Friday, Sept. 21. A fourth candidate – Mark Baker of Holstein, Iowa – withdrew his name from consideration prior to the interviews. Bloom has nearly 25 years of experience in city and county government that includes economic development. He’s also worked six years in education as a teacher. Council members agreed to offer Bloom an annual salary of $60,000, plus benefits. Councilwoman Ann Marie Schuster says all of the finalists had many strengths and it was nice to have a tough choice when it came time to making a decision. Bloom and city officials have yet to work out details of his contract, which are generally for one to three years. Bloom taking a job in Wells will be a return to his southern Minnesota roots. He graduated from Okabena High School in 1978 and then Mankato State University with a bachelor of science degree in community health/planning. After working several years in the public sector – including four years as Martin County coordinator and EDA director – Bloom earned a master’s degree in political science/public administration from Mankato State University in 1992. Bloom touts himself as a person who, “leads by example” and does not manage like a dictator. He says he’ll do whatever is necessary to promote the city. Bloom sees the city’s business base, downtown district, its cleanliness and overall appearance as positives that provide opportunities for growth. Bloom could be on the job as soon as today and will have some big projects to work on when he starts. In addition to completing the 2013 budget, Gaines says the new city administrator will be involved in the hiring of a new street department supervisor and community development director. Interim city administrator Brian Heck told the council he will work with Bloom for a smooth transition. Heck, who already has another interim job waiting for him at Thief River Falls, also has applied for a full-time position in Faribault.

Cologne, Minnesota (population 1,519): The Cologne City Council fired city administrator John Douville during a closed meeting late Wednesday evening, Oct. 10, according to the Waconia Patriot. Mayor Bernie Shambour Jr. confirmed the action the following day. Shambour did not share any specific reason for the termination, referring the issue to the city’s attorney. The NYA Times will be making a request for more information through the Data Practices Act. Douville had been placed on paid administrative leave following an earlier closed meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 2. It was the third time he had been placed on leave this year. He was also placed on paid administrative leave from May 17 through June 3, and was placed on unpaid leave from June 12-25. The council had adopted a personal improvement plan for Douville and implemented the plan on May 31. Issues regarding his performance mentioned in the plan included a failure to satisfactorily supervise employees under his direction both in public works and in the city offices, a misappropriation of municipal funds by allowing third parties to use the community center facilities without paying the necessary fees, and storing personal data on the city’s computer system and server. He also failed to present revised personnel policies drafted by the city attorney’s office in the year 2008, according to the plan.

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