Three years and three months after Ceres’ police chief and public safety director agreed to take on a third role as acting city manager, the city council has relieved him of that last duty.
“This has been an incredible opportunity, very taxing, and I do not recommend that this is a commonplace arrangement because it is very, very difficult,” Art de Werk said after the council voted 3-2 during a special meeting Friday to remove the role of acting city manager from his responsibilities.
De Werk took on what was supposed to be an interim role in December 2010 when city manager Brad Kilger left for a job in another city. Initially, he expected the job would last a matter of months.
Several years later, and still at the helm, de Werk considered pursuing the position full time. But early last year, he said public safety employees began asking for more of his attention and encouraged him to return to his roots.
“It’s been a huge career development and now it’s time to go back to the discipline that I have occupied for 42 years,” de Werk said.
A contingency of $20,000 was budgeted for the 2013-14 fiscal year to complete recruitment for a permanent city manager, but de Werk said in June it needn’t be used until the economy improved or he felt his city manager responsibilities began to outweigh his role as public safety director.
That time came Monday, when he asked the council during its regular meeting to find someone else for the job.
The two dissenting votes Friday came from Councilman Bret Durossette and Vice Mayor Ken Lane during the 2 1/2-hour closed-session meeting, but both said after reconvening in open session that they are pleased with the decision and disagreed only with the timing of it.
In de Werk’s place, the council unanimously voted to appoint Toby Wells, the city’s engineer and deputy city manager.
Council members agreed they do not want to wait another three years to find a permanent acting city manager.
Wells said it is a career goal of his to become city manager, and several council members expressed interest in forgoing a costly external recruiting process that could take up to 10 months.
The council voted unanimously to review, at its first meeting in June, Wells’ performance as acting city manager.
The issue of his compensation for the interim role is expected to be discussed during a meeting next month. Wells earns $117,708 for his current two department-head professions, which includes a 10 percent concession that all employees have agreed to since 2010.
De Werk saved the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in his role as acting city manager. His only compensation was to not take the 10 percent cut to his $139,752 salary. Kilger made about $150,000 annually.
This week marked a shift in other department-head roles. Deputy Police Chief Mike Borges worked his last day Friday after a 34-year career in law enforcement, and on Monday, Finance Director Sheila Cumberland announced she will retire in November.
De Werk has not announced Borges’ replacement but said the position will also first be filled on an interim basis.
For now, de Werk said he looks forward to returning to work Monday in his original public safety capacity.
“I love that job,” he said. “Frankly, it’s more rewarding than a city manager’s job because you’re dealing with life and death – you are dealing with hard-core issues of the human existence, and there is nothing more rewarding than helping people in that context.”