Council chooses temp city manager
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Sep 20, 2013, 15:54
Two days following the resignation of City Manager Edwin Daley, City Council appointed a new acting city manager at a special meeting on Thursday night.
Mark A. Haley, the director of the Hopewell Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, was appointed unanimously by members of council, with Vice Mayor Jasmine Gore and Councilor Roosevelt Edwards absent for the vote. Haley took his place up at the podium on Thursday night to fill the recently vacant seat, and will hold the position for an undetermined amount of time. However, time does not seem to be on Haley’s mind as he steps into his new role in the city of Hopewell.
“It’s an incredible honor,” Haley said before the meeting. “It’s very gratifying that council would have faith in me to help them lead the city.”
For almost 35 years, Haley has lived and worked in the city, raising his family and working at the wastewater plant, where he has held the title of director for 33 years. To him, the request for appointment was an easy answer, as he said he had much to give back to the city.
“I owe this city a lot,” Haley said. “It’s provided me with a good living and a good, steady employment all these years, so this is another opportunity for me to give back to my adopted hometown.”
Mayor Mike Bujakowski was pleased with the decision to choose Haley to fill Daley’s shoes until a more permanent replacement can be found. Bujakowski said he is leaving the timetable up to Haley as to how long he will fill the position.
“When we get to the point that Mark is being stretched too thin, we would want to move into this phase in a couple weeks, a week, whatever,” Bujakowski said. “It really depends on Mark and how he feels about all this.”
The day of the meeting, Haley noted that yes, it was going to be a challenge to fill both positions, however he remained confident that the plant will be in good hands while he spends time at City Hall.
“The plant’s in very capable hands down there,” Haley said. “I will go back and forth. ... I know I’ll be working a lot harder but that’s OK.”
The phase that Bujakowski is referring to is the next plan to fill the position until a new city manager is hired. Bujakowski said he, along with other members of council, are looking to an agency that is comprised of retired city managers and county administrators. He said the agency members will come in and fill the position on an interim basis while council continues to search for a replacement.
Though admitting he has never searched for a city manager, Bujakowski is estimating the process to take at least three months.
“Obviously it’s very important that we have due diligence and we move through it as quickly as we can but get it done as expeditiously as possible,” Bujakowski said. “Right now we’re just kind of just putting our hands and our heads around what is happening this minute and getting through this meeting [Thursday] to set Mark up.”
In terms of what council is looking for in a new, permanent city manager, Bujakowski said he, and other members of council, are beginning to define the qualities they are looking for in a replacement.
“We need somebody that is level headed, somebody that is personable,” Bujakowski said. “We need somebody that thinks well, thinks outside of the box, is a natural leader. We need good communication skills out of the city manager. It is the things you would look for in any leader is what you’ve got to have in a city manager.”
Bujakowski continued to stress the urgency to have that seat in council chambers filled as quickly as possible. He said the appointment needed to be made official so Haley could begin signing documents and executing business for the city.
“It’s kind of one step at a time but we need to take the steps fairly quickly,” Bujakowski said. “We knew we had to have somebody in place on an immediate basis because you know at a fairly regular interval, may or may be daily, but the city manager, as the top administrative official for the city has to sign things, change orders, work contracts. There are things that require the city’s signature. ... It was imperative that we acted quickly as we could to put somebody in there.”
Both Bujakowski and Haley are confident that the city will continue to move forward and not show any signs of slowing down with both the sudden resignation and immediate appointment.
“We don’t want the fact that there’s one person that’s departed quickly to cause any slow downs or mis-steps and I think with the high level staff that we have ... we’ll be great. There’s really great people and they’ve been involved for a really long time,” Haley said.
Councilor Wayne Walton also echoed the need to continue moving forward despite the resignation of Daley, and gave his well wishes to Daley as he moves from Hopewell onto the next chapter in his career.
“He’s accomplished a lot here in Hopewell,” Walton said. “... When one door closes, another opens in my mind. We certainly have some capable people here in the city to move forward and I’m going to work really hard to try and make that happen.”
In his new role, Haley said he is going to take the lead from council on his next few steps after his official appointment.
“I know there’s great interest in economic development and these very, very active projects to see that they come to fruition and they seem to be well on their way,” Haley said. “Just seeing that there’s no momentum lost on anything simply because there’s a management change.”
Bujakowski was also complimentary of city staff, noting that many could have filled the position left vacant after Tuesday night’s council meeting. He noted that Daley surrounded himself with “really, really good people.”
“There is no director that I know of here that wouldn’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t have been considered,” Bujakowski said. “... Every one of our directors is capable of filling in for Ed and this position.”
Despite her absence from the vote, Gore showed up later at the meeting Thursday and afterwards wanted to make sure she passed along her well wishes to Haley.
“I am excited that we have Mark to be the acting city manager,” Gore said. “He is a good fit for the position because he has the knowledge of the city, most importantly he is a city employee so he knows the importance and how to move the city forward during difficult times.”
After the vote was taken at the meeting on Thursday night, Haley thanked members of council and said he was looking forward to the upcoming challenges of his new role in the city.
“I know you all individually and as a group and I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead and I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity,” Haley said.