[An excerpt from my memoir “CITY MANAGEMENT SNAPSHOTS: ON THE RUN” by Ben Leiter — pen name — available at Amazon/kindle]
One day in the medium-sized western city, I received a visit from the new mayor. He wanted to chat. According to the mayor, we had staff who “weren’t with the program.”
He said he knew I hadn’t hired them; but, the longer they stayed, the more I would be identified with them.
Curious, I asked, “Who is the problem, Mayor?”
He urged me to find a way to get rid of the police chief, the city clerk, the city attorney, the city planner, and the city engineer.
Ironically, these were the best performers in the organization. They did their jobs well and exhibited a professional sense of public service.
I was totally furious and calm at the same time. I had NEVER before been confronted with such a wrongful, outrageous suggestion from an elected official.
Considering the circumstances and my feelings at the moment, I gave one of the most diplomatic responses of my professional life. I asked him why he felt that way and then further responded by saying, “Uh-huh,” and “I see.”
That was the end of that conversation. No heads rolled on my watch in that city.
Of course, he easily figured out that he could best remove the targeted staff by removing me, and so he started working on that human resources strategy.
I was impressed that, mentally, I had spent no time weighing what to do. There was no hesitation regarding his silly demands. The mayor’s neighbor described him as, “Waking up in the morning, and it’s a different world every day.”
Initially, I didn’t understand what that meant. However, continued inconsistent interactions on his part made it clear.
Maybe I had the right stuff after all?
Years later, a successor to my City Manager job in that same city resigned with a settlement in excess of seven hundred thousand dollars.