City manager, courted by Midwest city, accepts five-year contract from WVC
Jun 05, 2018 02:02PM
By Travis Barton
City Manager Wayne Pyle speaks with residents in March 2017 about the sites in selected in West Valley as potential locations for a homeless shelter. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
In what became a divisive vote, the West Valley City Council approved (4-3) to offer current City Manager Wayne Pyle a five-year contract on May 22. This came after a previous vote to offer a six-year contract was denied 3-4.
The move happened with Pyle being courted by city officials in Springfield, Missouri, for its city manager position. On May 21, Pyle was reportedly one of two finalists for the position going through final interviews before he later withdrew to accept the WVC contract.
“I’m very happy to be able to stay in the city where I’ve devoted the majority of my time and professional efforts as a city manager,” Pyle wrote in an email to the West Valley Journal. “We have seen some amazing things come to pass in the city over the last 20 years, and there are many more great things happening right now. I expect that the next five years will see more of the same. I’m excited!”
Pyle wrote he believed this would be beneficial for the city.
“Stability in experience and expertise of our team here has been a hallmark of the last 20 years (his length of time with WVC) and has allowed for some great things to happen here in West Valley,” he said.
The divide on the council stemmed from differences over the proposed contract with some council members feeling it gave Pyle too much leverage.
Mayor Ron Bigelow wanted the contract to be two years in length and that Pyle meet an annual evaluation rating of 3.5 (out of five), which was not included in the approved contract. “This is a one-sided contract of what the city must do,” Bigelow said.
He didn’t like that future councils could be bound to the city manager when they might have different goals and visions, “but under these terms, they won’t have any say in the matter.”
Councilwoman Karen Lang added a few more things she didn’t like such as the length of termination notice wasn’t even (180 days for the city, 30 for Pyle) and no requirement to live in the city.
“Because he is filling the role as our mayor, our mayor would have to live here, and I think he should have to live here and he moved out of the city last August,” she said.
But Paul Isaac, assistant city manager and director of human resources who drafted the contract, said there are no additional benefits that weren’t already in place for the position. The only difference, he said, was the length which didn’t exist before.
“Nothing has changed,” he said. “There’s not increased benefit; there's nothing except can we please have a little bit more peace of mind, security for the city manager so that he can go forward without worrying about whether or not these guys are going to just have a whim one day to vote to fire him?”
Buhler was outspoken saying a five- or six-year contract should be offered to Pyle. He cited various examples, including having no homeless shelter in the state’s second-largest city due to the city staff’s organization to oppose the shelter sites imposed by the County last year. Buhler highlighted a homeless task force created by Pyle even months before the shelter site announcements to address the issue as a sign of his foresight and preparation.
He pointed out affordable housing efforts, the zero sexually oriented businesses in the city and the awards that departments like police, finance and parks receive because of good governance.
“That is due to Mr. Pyle, due to his great staff that he has put together and the direction that he has given them as city manager,” Buhler said before voting. “In my mind, this is the easiest vote we'll have.”
Prior to the vote, Councilman Lars Nordfelt said “this is the most important work that we do is to secure a city manager” who implements the council’s vision and leads a team “to do what’s best for the city.”
“I think we couldn’t do better than Mr. Pyle,” Nordfelt said. “He does a great job for us.”
Lang agreed with the accomplishments and planning described by Buhler. Her concern was how the contract came about and Pyle “not accepting some of the suggestions from other city council members and mayor that kind of was a ‘my way or the highway.’”
The idea of a contract has been around for some time, Isaac said. According to Buhler, Pyle asked for a contract in February.
For years Pyle has operated in his position without a contract, possibly the only city manager in the metropolitan area to not have one. Buhler described that as a “disservice to the city and to Mr. Pyle.”
If the process to vote on the contract was rushed—it was placed on the May 15 agenda only to be tabled for the following week—it was because Isaac felt they were reaching a point where they could lose the city manager (to a city where he has extended family).
“We can’t let that happen,” Isaac said. “On the other hand, they've had that contract for two weeks and had plenty of time to look at it.”
It’s a contract, Isaac said, that is not one sided. “What does the city get out of it?” he said. “Well, the answer to that question is: You get Wayne. You get the best city manager in the valley.”
Councilman Jake Fitisemanu Jr. was the swing vote, voting against the six-year term but for the five years. He said he understood the impression of the contract tilting in Pyle’s favor, but said “the process allowed us to review and to add our comments and to suggest modifications. I think that process was thorough.”
A five-year contract is fairly standard, Pyle said, citing former police chief Lee Russo’s contract length was five years.
Pyle accepted the contract terms in principal the week of the vote and signed the contract shortly thereafter, just as Isaac expected him too.
“Wayne loves it here,” Isaac said. “He doesn’t want to go.”
Isaac also said city staff was “elated” at the decision and felt this would “regenerate everybody in this city, including Wayne himself.”
If this discussion and split vote could hinder relations going forward, Lang doesn’t see it.
“I think we get along very, very well, and that's what I've always liked about this council, that even though we may have different opinions and differences, we all play well together,” she said.
“I don't see it being a big hiccup. I think we all just pick up next week, we all get along and we all move forward.”