Oak Harbor mayor fires city administrator and attorney
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
January 6, 2012 · 3:55 PM
Newly elected Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley has fired City Administrator Paul Schmidt and City Attorney Margery Hite.
Dudley, who defeated incumbent Jim Slowik this past November, said he sat down with both senior-level city employees late this week and told them that he was terminating their employment.
Dudley informed the newspaper Friday afternoon as a memo went out to all city employees alerting them of the changes.
Dudley said Hite’s termination was effectively immediately and that he has replaced her with Assistant City Attorney Bill Hawkins. Schmidt will stay on until Feb. 6 so he can work with Planning Director Steve Powers, who will fill in on an interim basis.
“Paul will be working with Steve to ensure a smooth transition,” Dudley said.
The mayor declined to say why he relieved the two employees, saying it was inappropriate to discuss or comment on individual personnel issues. He said both “served the city well” and he wishes them luck in their future endeavors but that he believes his decision was made in the best interest of the city.
Schmidt could not be reached for comment but Hite said she was not surprised by the news, that she “had an idea this was coming.” She also said Dudley was not very specific about why he was making the change, only that it for administrative reasons.
“Just a change of management,” she said.
According to Hite, both she and Schmidt hold appointed positions that serve at the will of the mayor. It’s not uncommon for new mayors to make changes with senior level leadership at City Hall once they’ve taken office.
“It’s important that the person in the position is someone the mayor is comfortable with,” she said.
Hite was hired in 2008 and Schmidt in 2006. Hite said Hawkins was “an excellent choice” to take over for her and said she planned to assist him from home with unfinished projects, such as the recent decision to appeal a growth management ruling concerning the city’s plans for expansion.
While Dudley’s move will certainly raise a few eyebrows, it came as little surprise. He hinted at staffing changes for months while on the campaign trail and the issue blossomed into controversy late last month when City Councilman Rick Almberg suggested a six-month hiring and firing freeze.
Almberg is out of the country and could not be reached for this story.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.