1/31/2012 – The press reported yesterday that some members on Council want to replace our City Manager, Brenda Bauer. I believe that, if this change gets majority approval at the Council meeting tomorrow (2/1), the 4 Council members (Lester, Ward, Bonkowski and Blossom) who are pushing to replace our City Manager will discover that it will be hard to find a better qualified applicant. And our City’s reputation for recurring Councilmember clashes with city management will be a barrier to good applicants.
Examples of Prior Lack of Collaboration
For example, City Manager Mark Dombrowski resigned in October 2009 when he perceived that the City and his leadership were being undermined by some, like Councilmember Knobloch. As Mr. Dombroski left, as reported in the press, he filed a public records request for communications between Mr. Knobloch and the plaintiffs who attacked the City with the Bainbridge Ratepayer Alliance lawsuit (a lawsuit that the plaintiffs have not withdrawn).
Now, three Councilmembers who former Councilmember Knobloch endorsed for election last November (members Ward, Bonkowski and Blossom) are working with Mayor Lester to replace our current highly qualified and experienced City Manager. (Disclosure: I was a candidate running for re-election against Mr. Bonkowski.)
The City Council has gone through 6 or 7 City leaders since 2003, and several have left because some Council members (with some vocal citizens) have undermined public confidence in the City and its management. For example, in mid-2011, three Council members (Lester, Knobloch and Brackett) voted against changing Brenda Bauer’s appointment from “interim” to regular.
The City’s reputation for lack of collaboration is easy to find on the internet. That reputation has hurt us in the past. Before finding Brenda Bauer, in early 2010, the Council had unanimously favored a very experienced City Manager applicant, but he decided he was unwilling to take the Bainbridge City Council’s offer.
And there are other risks? Yes. What else, and who else, might our city lose if Council votes this Wednesday to replace our City Manager? The City has regained financial sustainability, managerial teamwork, and strategic planning momentum. I can see all three being hurt by a disruption of management at the top.
Our City Manager’s Strong Record
What’s our City Manager’s record? Very strong. In May 2010, Brenda Bauer was unanimously selected by the 7-member Council. No one is perfect. No one walks on water. But Ms. Bauer accomplished the key goals that the Council set for her, and more:
- As requested by Council, she moved quickly to find and hire capable new leadership for City Attorney, Finance Director and Deputy City Manager positions.
- As requested, she rebuilt the city’s financial sustainability.
- For the City’s General Fund reserves, which had fallen from $2 million to zero in the first two years of the 2008-09 recession, her team and Council rebuilt reserves to $6 million by the end of 2011 (with $2 million coming from a legal settlement with Ferries, and $4 million from expense reduction, streamlining of operations, a couple of sales of surplus assets, and selective focusing of capital projects). Continue Reading »