Dudley ends his honeymoon | Editorial
January 17, 2012 · Updated 10:58 AM
Like a bridegroom who goes on a bender on his wedding night, newly elected Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley brought an abrupt end to the honeymoon period that elected officials traditionally enjoy until they have time to settle into office.
Dudley shocked the city only two weeks into his mayoral duties by showing the door to two veteran and highly respected leaders, Fire Chief Mark Soptich and Police Chief Rick Wallace.
As they say in the Land of Oz, this is a horse of an entirely different color than Dudley’s previous week’s work when he fired City Manager Paul Schmidt and City Attorney Margery Hite. These two positions have been more transient and those who held them do not have deep roots in the community. Not so with the fire chief and police chief.
Dudley gave the fire chief a quick boot, as he will leave office March 6 after serving the city for nearly 25 years. If Mark Soptich had any critics or enemies, they’ve kept an invisible profile through the years. He’s highly respected in the community and by all accounts has been an excellent fire chief. Never was a negative word uttered about him during a public city council meeting.
Police Chief Rick Wallace moved up the ranks for decades before taking over the lead role in the department. He was tentatively planning to leave in June anyway, so his departure is not so surprising. He always handled his job with class even when criticized and his was a calm hand at the helm as he made countless friends in the community.
Both, however, serve at the mayor’s pleasure, as the city code allows the mayor to replace certain departments heads as he or she sees fit.
Nevertheless, Dudley handled the latest situation ham-handedly. After years of outstanding service, Wallace and Soptich deserved the respect of being allowed to end their careers on their own terms and in their own way. An abrupt announcement that they would not be retained by the new mayor was simply disrespectful and Dudley owes the two public servants an apology.
Dudley no doubt will feel the heat of public criticism at the next city council meeting. Apparently he’s hoping that by making his changes quickly, he’ll have time to recover and lead the city in a positive manner over the next four years. It may have sounded like a good idea on paper, but he caused an unnecessary firestorm by so rudely ending the careers of the fire chief and police chief.