December 31, 2011 in City

Changes begin among city staff as three top administrators depart

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Even before he officially took office, Mayor-elect David Condon shook up City Hall on Friday when he informed three top administrators that they won’t be back to serve with him as mayor.

Receiving notice were City Administrator Ted Danek, Public Works and Utilities Director Dave Mandyke and General Administration Director Dorothy Webster.

Mandyke and Webster immediately announced their retirements. Counting the open seat for police chief, the departures create three big vacancies in city government.

Danek will be replaced by Theresa Sanders, the city’s former economic development director, who served as Condon’s transition director.

Condon deferred questions about the makeup of his staff in a brief interview after he took the oath of office Friday morning. The announcement about Danek, Mandyke and Webster was made by news release about an hour later. Condon did not return calls seeking comment.

In his speech after he was sworn in as mayor, Condon promised to create an “effective team of people I can trust.”

Sanders, who was active in Condon’s campaign for mayor and long rumored to be Condon’s choice for city administrator, was first hired at City Hall by former Mayor Dennis Hession but quit after two years, citing an inability to “change the culture.”

Sanders, 51, is a graduate of North Central High School and has a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Washington University in government. She worked at Microsoft, leaving in 1998 as the senior product manager, and has worked in several economic development positions since.

“We need to get to a place where we serve as a service organization, more than just a regulatory organization,” she said in an interview Friday.

Sanders pledged that city services will function smoothly despite the significant change on its way.

“The bureaucracy has a lot of layers to it that keep the organization functioning,” Sanders said.

She will replace Danek, 45. He said Friday that Condon made a good decision by naming Sanders to lead the city’s staff.

“I firmly believe that the mayor has to have his people in place to be successful,” Danek said.

Mandyke and Webster have long and diverse experiences at City Hall. Mandyke has worked for the city since 1973 and was named the leader of the city’s public works and utility departments by Hession and oversees the largest portion of the city budget. He was an assistant city manager in the 1990s.

Webster was hired in 1989 and has overseen affirmative action programs and was a deputy city manager in the 1990s. In her current role, she oversees a hodgepodge of services and special projects, including the public defenders office, human services, city hall maintenance and community centers.

Attempts made to reach Mandyke and Webster on Friday were unsuccessful.

Gerry Gemmill, the deputy public works and utilities director, will be the acting director, city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said in a news release. No interim director was named to replace Webster.

Condon has yet to settle on a replacement for retiring police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. He said Friday he has chosen acting Assistant Police Chief Scott Stephens to be the acting police chief but that appointment is effective only through the weekend.

“The No. 1 issue will be public safety, and I will be addressing that first thing, next week,” Condon said.

Outgoing Mayor Mary Verner started a search for a new police chief with Condon’s blessing. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has lobbied for the job in an effort to combine his office with the city’s police department.

Two other city hall staff members were told earlier this month that they would not keep their positions in the mayor’s office. Karen Stratton, Verner’s executive assistant, and administrative assistant Lura Robson, however, will remain employed at the city in other positions.

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