For the second time in less than a year, the Frankfort City Commission on Monday took a vote to remove its city manager. Unlike the last go-around in August when leaders opted to fire then-City Manager Keith Parker “without cause,” interim City Manager Tom Russell will stay in his post a little longer.
With an April 1 deadline looming, Russell’s employment status with the city, which is currently listed as seasonal, will either have to change to full-time or he will have to leave City Hall. City leaders also have the option of moving Russell to full-time employment, temporary full-time employment or discontinuing his interim city manager duties.
On Monday, veteran Commissioner Katrisha Waldridge, who has been critical of Russell’s performance of city manager duties while he doubles as emergency management director, led the charge to remove him.
Her motion to remove Russell failed in a 3-2 vote. Mayor Layne Wilkerson and Commissioners Leesa Unger and Kelly May voted against Russell’s removal while Commissioner Kyle Thompson supported the motion, which would have assigned Assistant City Manager/City Solicitor Laura Ross to delegate administrative duties via department heads until a permanent city manager is hired.
“I think this is the best direction for us to get moving. It solidifies safety and security in our emergency management side,” said Waldridge, who has advocated rehiring Parker in some capacity. She stopped short of making a motion to do just that on Monday.
Russell defended himself, saying, “… Sitting in this chair and doing both positions every now and then gets a little time-consuming, but I have great staff on both sides of the street here and we are not lacking or suffering.”
With important projects such as the Parcels B and C development underway, we agree with the mayor that making another interim change in the city’s top administrative post, which has become a revolving door over the past decade with five city managers and Russell, would be a bad idea at this juncture.
The past two city managers, Cindy Steinhauser and Keith Parker, stayed in their posts for a total of 39 months. What Frankfort needs is a city manager who is willing to stay the course, who has the confidence of the city commission and a steady hand to guide the community through the Capital Plaza redevelopment project.
While we agree with Waldridge that the commission must move quickly to find that person, another interim arrangement in the meantime doesn't serve the public interest.