Spokane’s longtime director of garbage collection services has been replaced as part of a leadership change in the Public Works Department, leaving some Spokane City Council members confused and angry about the abrupt change.
Scott Windsor, who has served as solid waste collection director since his appointment by then-Mayor Mary Verner in 2008, will be reassigned to a new position, said Public Works Director Scott Simmons. He made the change last week and declined to comment Monday on the move, saying the city would not publicly discuss personnel decisions.
“We’re just doing some leadership changes,” Simmons said, adding that the city was working with Windsor on other opportunities.
The move upset some members of the Spokane City Council who’ve been critical of the Public Works Department and its staffing decisions, remnants of a budget dispute that occurred in November regarding the movement of clerks out of the department and into City Hall. City Council President Ben Stuckart and Councilwoman Karen Stratton said at Monday night’s meeting they’d no longer be attending monthly committee meetings with leaders in the city’s Public Works Department. Stuckart said he had “no faith in (Simmons’) leadership anymore.”
“This is the worst personnel move the city’s made since I’ve been here,” Stuckart said before the meeting. “(Windsor) was beloved by his employees, and beloved by the council.”
“He’s been a great manager,” Stratton said. “I think this was a decision with no thought.”
City Councilman Breean Beggs said he was contacted Friday by Simmons about the personnel move.
“My view of it, is that this is an administration issue,” said Beggs, noting that a change in the department “was not on his radar.” Beggs, who chairs the council committee overseeing public works projects that Stuckart and Stratton said they’d no longer attend, said he hoped his colleagues would return.
City Councilwoman Candace Mumm said she liked Windsor as a manager.
“I don’t know why, we still don’t know why,” Mumm said. “That’s hard, to even discuss it with you, because we don’t have any information. I would like more information, but it is his call.”
Windsor will be replaced by Matt Lowmaster, who has worked for the city for three years as head of the city’s safety program under the Human Resources Department.
Lowmaster will serve on an interim basis and will focus on improving safety measures for drivers of the city’s fleet of garbage collection trucks, as well as transitioning trash collection to a paperless route and billing system, Simmons said.
“He’s really going to help us kind of focus on our strategic initiatives, around technology and safety,” Simmons said.
Several council members said they didn’t know much about Lowmaster. Stuckart pointed out he had “no background in solid waste.”
Under Windsor’s leadership, the solid waste department earned nationwide recognition for its service, receiving the bronze award from the Solid Waste Association of North America in 2013. Windsor has overseen the introduction of compressed natural gas trucks into the city’s fleet to replace diesel trucks. In 2012, construction of the new Waste Management recycling facility on the West Plains enabled the city to switch to a single-stream system that relieved employees from sorting materials at the curb.
Windsor could not be reached for comment Monday.
In an interview in January, Windsor said the city had rebounded from a lull in trash collection caused by the 2008 economic downturn and had just posted a record year in revenue. Some of that money is now being used to grade and level unpaved alleys that receive trash collection service throughout the city.
Windsor is the second division or department head that has been removed from duties this year.
In March, former Planning Director Lisa Key was fired as part of what was described as an organizational reshuffling in the city’s Neighborhood and Business Services Division. He is also the second director in the city’s Public Works Department to be relieved of duties in as many years. In February 2017, the city abruptly moved Mark Serbousek out of his position as director of the city’s Streets Department. Serbousek, a bridge engineer, is now overseeing the replacement of the Post Street bridge in Riverfront Park.
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