Council opts not to renew Hecksel’s contract
Jeff Hecksel will be allowed to serve out the final year of his contract as Glenwood Springs city manager through August 2016. But City Council decided Thursday night it’s time to move on and look for new city leadership come then.
A 4-3 majority led by Councilors Todd Leahy, Steve Davis, Kathryn Trauger and Mayor Mike Gamba voted for nonrenewal of Hecksel’s contract, under which he was allowed one year’s notice of nonrenewal this Sept. 1.
The decision means Hecksel will stay on for the next year, or as long as he desires during that period, without the city having to pay the nine months’ severance terms also spelled out in his contract.
Failure by council to make a decision by Sept. 1 would have meant his rolling contract would have automatically renewed in one year for another two years until September 2018.
“I know this is not an elected position, but just as we are term-limited up here, I think there comes a time for new leadership …,” Councilman Leahy said in making the motion for nonrenewal. “Every so often it’s time to get a new direction, and a new way of looking at things.”
Hecksel declined to comment immediately on the decision.
All four of the council members who favored nonrenewal commended Hecksel for a job well done during his 11 years with the city.
“No ill feelings, you have done a fabulous job,” said Councilman Davis, who was just elected to council in the April election along with Trauger. “This decision doesn’t come to us tonight without a lot of thought. There has been a lot of soul-searching to come to this decision, and it has nothing to do with the performance of Jeff Hecksel.”
Trauger agreed with Leahy that the questions came down to whether it’s time for fresh leadership.
“I have grown to have a lot of respect for Jeff,” she said. “That being said, I have been where he is in other employment positions, and sometimes an employer decides they need to move in a little different direction.”
Council members Leo McKinney, Stephen Bershenyi and Matt Steckler disagreed wholeheartedly with the majority decision.
“I think when we go looking for a new city manager we will be looking for someone who is just like Jeff, who is an excellent manager who can steer us through the tough times,” McKinney said. “We didn’t get ourselves through the recession, it was Jeff and his management style.”
“I don’t agree that this is just about a desire for a fresh perspective,” Bershenyi said bluntly.
“I think it is part ‘hail the fellow well met,’” he said.
Given the “critical juncture” the city is in with the state’s looming Grand Avenue Bridge replacement project and related transportation and infrastructure work that will come with it, “it’s reprehensible to change leaders,” Bershenyi added.
Councilman Matt Steckler also commended Hecksel for steering the city through difficult fiscal times.
“I am disappointed in the actions of my fellow council members in this,” Steckler said.
In May, City Council decided to eliminate the staff city attorney’s position, forcing the resignation of former city attorney Jan Shute. At that same time, Hecksel’s future with the city was also called into question, but not action was taken then.
Hecksel’s contract was amended last year to provide for nine months’ severance should his employment be immediately terminated, rather than 12 months as stated in his renegotiated 2010 contract. The contract still specified that notice of nonrenewal without severance must be given a full year in advance. Hecksel is currently paid $130,874 per year.
In late May, Hecksel was named one of three finalists for the open city manager’s job in Delta. The city council there later decided to pass on all three finalists and start the search again.
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