~ by Rick Langenberg ~
Green Mountain Falls’ first official experiment with a full-time town manager and city clerk has come to an abrupt conclusion.
Last week, the GMF Board of Trustees fired Verla Bruner, the town manager for the last six and a half months, by a 5-1 vote, following an executive session. She was the first official joint town manager/city clerk for Green Mountain Falls.
“It just wasn’t the right fit,” said Mayor Jane Newberry, following this decision. She complimented Bruner as a person, but believes the arrangement wasn’t working out for the town. “She was a lovely person. But sometimes these things just don’t work out. We wish her the best.”
Newberry declined to mention any specific reasons for the termination action.
No other personnel decisions are planned at this point, according to the mayor. Renee Price, the deputy city clerk, will assume more administrative duties, until the town finds a replacement for Bruner. In addition, the mayor said the town may enlist some volunteer help.
At this week’s regular trustees meeting, the board may unveil a schedule for hiring a replacement.
Even with this decision, Newberry said the board still plans to move forward with the town manager arrangement, which is part of a funding bid it received from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). DOLA has agreed to fund a portion of the salary of the joint town manager/city clerk position for a several year period. The town employed an interim town manager on a contract basis for six months, under a nearly $50,000 grant. That arrangement received mostly positive reviews, according to elected leaders.
As part of this experiment, John Pick, the former GMF Interim Town Manager and Clerk, recommended that the town pursue this permanent arrangement. The town also obtained a grant to permit it to have a town manager/clerk for several years, with the state picking up part of the tab.
Newberry stressed that she believes the town manager experiment is still worth pursuing, at least until its grant expires with DOLA.
The decision to part ways with Bruner followed a lively town hall meeting on Nov. 7 in which a group of residents voiced many concerns regarding the management of the town, and specifically, the manning of the roads.
Newberry, though, stated that this meeting didn’t necessarily have a big impact on the board’s decision.
“I thought that was a good meeting,” said Newberry. She noted that several tangible solutions were brought forward. “I thought it ended on a positive note,” said the mayor.
The decision to axe Bruner may not surprise too many residents, but the timing may provide a jolt for some. During the Nov. 7 town hall gathering with local residents, the few trustees that attended didn’t appear to voice any public dissatisfaction with Bruner.
At the recent forum, some residents, though, appeared unhappy with the direction the town was headed. The budget also was a subject of much angst, with certain proposed expenses facing scrutiny.
Recent comments on social media outlets also have conveyed much criticism regarding the running of the town.
The firing of Bruner marks the second clerk the town has parted ways with in several years.
The town has had a revolving chair syndrome for the last four or so years, with its public works crew, marshal staff and city clerk. Nearly 10 department heads or key employees have left the city’s services in recent years.
Newberry, though, complimented the remainder of their staff. In other employment action, she noted that GMF Marshal Virgil Hodges has hired several volunteer reserves for additional assistance.
In the last week, a definite increase occurred in patrol activity, according to local reports. The lack of marshal patrols was a subject that was raised at the recent GMF town forum.