Familiar face returns to city hall

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck

A year after losing the Williston City Manager job, Oel Wingo is back at city hall doing just that.
Wingo was officially hired June 27 to fill the void left by the termination of Pat Miller’s contract.
As the interim city manager, a post she held from May 24, 2011 until Miller came on board a couple months later.
In fact, Wingo was one of the four finalists for the position, but some council members believed her asking price of $100,000 annually was out of the city’s league. Councilors Norm Fugate and Jerry Robinson supported her employment, while then-Councilors Brooks Holloway and Michael Shoemaker opposed it. Former President Marc Nussel broke the tie with a no vote.
It was a unanimous decision last week that saw Wingo step back into the familiar role for a consulting fee of $5,000 per month.
Wingo told council she carried her own professional liability insurance and only required a cell phone and job-related travel expense reimbursement.
“I guess I have to ask the hard question,” Mayor Gerald Hethcoat said, as he asked her about the status of a formal complaint against her with the state ethics commission that occurred during her tenure in Holly Hill.
Wingo said all parties had appeared before a judge in April, and during the course of the hearing several of the prosecutor’s witnesses were impeached.
“I feel very good about it,” she said. “People at last told the truth.
“Thank you for asking,” Wingo said to the mayor. “It needs to be on the record.”
The judge has not made a ruling yet, she said.
The mayor informed her that city employees had been “dragged through the wringer” for the past year, and morale was low.  “I want the manager to know that,” Hethcoat said.
Wingo said low morale was happening everywhere and the best way to combat it is to maintain the lines of  open dialog, be open and transparent with no back stabbing.
“You were on the right track,” Wingo told council members. “This is a more professional, congenial council.”
Debra Jones and Cyndie McQuaig both addressed concerns with Wingo regarding employees.
McQuaig, who works as an assistant in the Planning and Zoning Department, said she was a spokesman for the employees.
“They’re wounded,” McQuaig said. “They’re healing. We have a lot of work here. We’re concerned.”
Jones said employees were concerned because of a letter Wingo had written last year that said the city could lay off workers to make up the difference between what the council was offering for the manager post and what she was asking.
“I’m very direct,” Wingo said. “I say it. Last year there was a lack of congeniality. The only way I would have taken the job then was for $100,000.” She then   cited the lack of professionalism and the lack of civility as chief factors.
“It’s never about the money with me,” Wingo said. “It’s about being a good fit.”

Wingo said a good manager presents choices and make difficult decisions that could include layoffs, shorter work days, reduced hours and outsourcing jobs.
“You have to look at everything,” she said.
She said a manager has to look at what a city has in resources and then work with that to determine what can be afforded.
“When can you start?” President Jerry Robinson asked.
Wingo laughed and said she’d already tentatively started that morning as she researched what was necessary to do to make all the deadlines associated with the budget and TRIM notices.