Mayor ousts Myers

Oak Harbor City Administrator Thom Myers’ last day of work will be Nov. 30, but he will continue drawing a severance paycheck through the end of May 2006.

Mayor Patty Cohen announced at the council meeting Tuesday that she’s decided not to renew Myers’ contract when it expires.

In other words, he’s fired. She hopes to replace him by Dec. 1.

“I’ve made the choice and the decision to go in a different direction,” she said.

Myers also addressed the council. “The mayor and I agreed that it is in our best interests that my contract not be renewed,” he said.

While Cohen called it a “very amicable” agreement between her and Myers, some city council members didn’t take it that way. At least a couple of council members appeared upset with the impending departure.

Councilman Paul Brewer said the city is losing a good leader. “With your leadership, you empowered the staff to make decisions and not fear the council and not fear the mayor,” he said.

The council and audience gave Myers a standing ovation.

Afterward, Councilman Eric Gerber asked to go into executive session to discuss Myers’ firing. He had a large stack of papers and said he wanted to share his concerns with the council.

City Attorney Phil Bleyhl told them they could only discuss past performance of a city employee; they agreed.

Councilman Richard Davis — who was against going into executive session — eventually left the closed-door meeting upset and walked out of city hall before adjournment. He had pointed out before the meeting that the mayor has complete authority to hire and fire city administrators.

In an interview, Myers said he won’t be looking for a new job anytime soon. His contract includes a six-month severance package, which means he’ll make about $55,000 for sitting back and chilling. He earns $110,580 a year under his contract with the city.

Also, Myers said he knew his termination was coming for a long time.

Friday, Cohen said she’s very grateful for Myers’ service over the last three and a half years. But she explained that the mayor’s office and the administrator “depend greatly on each other” and it’s important that they have management styles that compliment one another.

Unfortunately, she felt their management styles conflict, though she didn’t want to get into details of what that means. Also, she pointed out that city administrators tend to have a “short shelf life” of just a couple of years.

“Thom is a true gentleman and very professional,” she said. “He’s promised to make the transition as smooth as possible.”

In the past, Cohen has had a tough time finding the right person for the job. She fired former city supervisor E.T. Silvers. She chose not to promote Finance Director Doug Merriman to the position after he served as interim city supervisor during a lengthy search for Silvers’ replacement.

Ken Nyberg, former city supervisor, quietly left the city after a short time at the job.

Under Cohen, former police chief Tony Barge, Planner Tom Burdett and Engineer Ryan Goodman also lost their jobs.

This time around, Cohen said she already has a couple of prospects and plans to hire Myers’ replacement this fall. She said luring the right person might mean increasing the administrator’s salary.

At the same time, she said many cities are weaning themselves off offering large severance packages; she hopes to do the same.

Myers said he will direct his energy in his remaining time to the council’s priority projects. He said these priorities are the Windjammer Park program, youth services, timely and accurate information to the council, and working to assure a smooth transition.

“Oak Harbor, in many ways, is at a crossroads,” he said. “The city has a chance to enhance its livability, both for residents and tourists, by following through on an ambitious waterfront and downtown redevelopment plan. ... It will no doubt be difficult to stay on track and help make this $32 million plan a reality.”

You can reach Jessie Stensland at or 675-6611.

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