Oak Harbor mayor gives assistant axe

Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley once again surprised both supporters and detractors by firing a member of his team.

The city supervisor emailed out a brief note to city officials and staff Friday afternoon announcing that Renee Recker, the mayor’s executive assistant, is no longer working for the city.

On Monday, Dudley said he made the decision to terminate Recker after trying to improve her work for months. He said he even brought in a consultant to help her understand her role.

“Renee is a very nice person,” he said, “but I will continue to ask more from all city employees. We are accountable to the citizens of Oak Harbor.”

Recker said she couldn’t comment, but referred the Whidbey News-Times to attorney Chris Skinner for comment. He did not immediately return a call for comment.

Recker was hired by former Mayor Patty Cohen and also worked for Mayor Jim Slowik.

Tuesday, Slowik said Recker was “terrific” at her job and always received great performance reviews. He said one of the many things her job entailed was coordinating with other levels of government, from the county to the Pentagon.

“She has great skills and knows the people out there,” he said, referring to Washington D.C., “and knows how to get things done.”

Councilman Rick Almberg said he was surprised by the news and wished the mayor would have waited until Recker had completed her cancer treatments.

Recker’s salary raised some eyebrows in April when the council adopted her new contract. Her salary was set at $65,000 a year, which equates to $86,000 when the value of city benefits are factored in.

In contrast, the mayor earns about $51,000 a year.

Dudley said her salary had nothing to do with his decision to fire her; but he said the new executive assistant, when hired, will be “much more affordable.”

Dudley said he plans to expand the job description to include an “ombudsman” role, which he said means tracking citizens concerns and making sure questions are answers. He said he will appoint a temporary assistant to fill Recker’s place.

Recker was acting as both the assistant to the mayor and city administrator, which was filled by two well-paid employees before Dudley came into office and the city administrator’s assistant quit.

Since coming into office, Dudley has fired the city administrator, two city attorneys, the fire chief, the police chief and was accused of forcing out the former city engineer. City Council members criticized Dudley’s actions, which costs the city large chunks of money in severance packages.

Recker was an at-will employee, which means she served at the will of the mayor. Under her contract, she will receive a one-month severance package.


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