The Austin Chronicle

Beside the Point

A Resigned Affair

By Wells Dunbar, May 16, 2008, News

The Tobyocracy's diaspora continues.

First came Chief of Staff Kristen Vas­sa­llo's resignation last month. Then the impending departure of Assistant City Manager Laura Huffman. Now, a third high-level resignation from the ranks of the old power at City Hall: Human Resources Director Cathy Rodgers suddenly announced her retirement, effective May 12, after more than three decades with the city.

"Cathy Rodger's professionalism and expertise will be missed," wrote City Manager Marc Ott in a letter announcing her retirement. (You'd think he'd have a form letter for this thing by now.) "I'm sure you join me in thanking Cathy for her many contributions to our workforce and wish her success in the future." The city will also be thanking Cathy in a tangible financial fashion. According to In Fact Daily, Rodgers will use seven accumulated weeks of vacation and sick pay, then stay on "administrative leave" until the end of the year.

Like Vassallo and Huffman, Rodgers distinguished herself through fidelity to our last city manager, Toby Futrell. But during her time heading HR (the city's hiring and firing arm), she also clashed with the city employees' union over personnel disputes, performance reviews, and more. (For more on the turmoil that roiled HR, see Inhuman Resources, Nov. 23, 2007.) Jack Kirfman, rep for the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, says, "I think that it shows that there really, clearly is a change in the air." Pointing to the string of management changes, he says it's "almost a paradigm shift from the way the organization was being run, from the last couple of years of Toby's tenure."

With Rodgers' abrupt departure, Ott upgraded HR Assistant Director Karen Sharp to acting director – with no word at press time whether he'll launch a national search, as he's done to fill Huffman's position. Addition­ally, with Fire Chief J.J. Adame's resignation under pressure, the search is on for a more proactive replacement there. (Assistant Chief Jim Evans was named acting chief last week.) Additionally, last week Ott tapped Anthony Snipes, talent from Ott's Fort Worth days, as chief of staff to replace Vassallo. If it wasn't obvious before: Big changes are afoot with city management. "The potential, at least, for a more open, supportive organization is starting to sprout," says Kirfman. "Whether it will actually come to fruit, we'll see."


The signs seem to be aligning: First a freak hailstorm erupts directly over my apartment on election day – which I was certain portended a shower of frogs and a Jennifer Gale victory in Place 4. Now the final coup de grâce – a City Council agenda that's only 35 items deep. Truly the seventh seal has been pried apart.

That's not to say there's nothing of substance buried in today's agenda, Thursday, May 15: Council confirms Jim Evans as acting fire chief, and the blogosphere-buzzed battle between transit advocates and Hyde Park residents over the lack of pedestrian connectivity in a 51st Street project beside UT's intramural fields erupts in its final reads before council (see Density Debacle at 51st Street). Plus, a 6pm public hearing on tweaking development regulations in the McMansion Ordinance should entertain. Once again, the heavy lifting occurred the day before, Wednesday, in council's third budget work session, this one tackling General Fund departments like – everyone's favorites! – Police, Fire, and EMS. Keeping with the trend, council has penciled in another work session next Wednesday, May 21.

Lastly, congratulations to former Council Member Raul Alvarez, who won a seat on the Austin Community College board of trustees rather handily. (Better have, as he was running unopposed.) Our best wishes to Alvarez, who's seemingly succeeded in finding a more wonkish, thankless office than his last one.  

Tender your resignations to [email protected].

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