Mayor lays off economic development manager
MONROE - Mayor Geoffrey Thomas laid off the city’s economic development manager Jeff Sax.
In a brief interview last week, Thomas said he made the decision after seeing that the permitting and planning department was significantly backed up.
“I had the opportunity to review the workload of the permitting and planning department and I learned that there were over 40 applications and other issues in our planning department waiting to be reviewed,” Thomas said. “After meeting with the directors and managers, I concluded that it would be best to reallocate the (economic development manager’s) job function and to look at restructuring our planning, permitting and economic development services.”
Thomas sent an e-mail on Friday, Jan. 3 to members of the City Council and city staff about his decision to eliminate the position. Sax made $80,000 a year.
There were mixed feelings among council members in response to the mayor’s decision.
Councilman Kevin Hanford expressed his “disappointment and frustration” at the Jan. 7 council meeting.
“I was disappointed that the mayor couldn’t have waited three more business days to talk to the council to run the idea past us before making the decision to let someone go on his second day in office,” Hanford said. “I just don’t understand making such a drastic move without running it by us or asking for our input.”
Councilwoman Patsy Cudaback responded to those members, including Councilman Kurt Goering, who were crying foul and reminded those members that no one seemed to care when former Mayor Robert Zimmerman fired community development director Hiller West for speaking about his concerns to the press about Heritage Baptist Fellowship’s East Monroe rezone request, a pet project of Zimmerman and his allies on council.
Zimmerman hired Sax in 2011 and helped push the East Monroe rezone through the city last year. Sax was also in charge of real estate transactions for the city.
“I think that it was the mayor’s prerogative, and we should welcome the new direction and move forward,” Cudaback said.
She added in a separate interview last week that she believes the mayor has a good vision for the city going into 2014 and that laying off Sax was “a wise decision.”
“I think where the city is at, we need someone who is an expert at community development,” Cudaback said. “Jeff specialized in real estate transactions, but community and economic development encompasses grant writing and relationships that are far bigger than that — it reaches out to the rest of the region.”
City administrator Gene Brazel said the city could not disclose details surrounding any kind of severance package for possibly another week or so.
Thomas said Sax’s duties would likely be redistributed among other staff members, Thomas said.
“We’re evaluating the best way to serve our customers, and what I’ll be doing is meeting with staff and council to make certain that we have the right couple of personnel to meet the needs of our planning, permitting and economic development functions.”
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