Schiefer says 'no' to job

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By Pat Hibbs

City finance director Mark Schiefer has declined the city council appeal that he become the new city manager. Schiefer has served as interim city manager since the council summarily fired James Coleman in early April.

Council members have been unanimous in their praise for Schiefer's performance. When Schiefer accepted the interim appointment, the premise was that he would explore the responsibilities of the position and determine whether he thought he could successfully fulfill the city manager position, as well as whether he felt that the job was right for him.

As the weeks went by, however, and council members continued to praise his performance, they also to urged him to advertise for a new finance director. He pointed out that filling the finance director position would deprive him of a job in which he was thriving should he decide that city management was not for him.

The many satisfactory resumes he received for a new finance director made it clear to him that he had to make a definitive decision about the city manager position and he told the council at the last meeting that he would make his final decision by this week.

The council members' disappointment was palpable when Schiefer said that he'd decided to remain as finance director and asked that the council authorize advertising for a new city manager.

Schiefer told the council and the audience that he appreciated the overwhelming support and good will he'd received from the council and from the city staff.

Nonetheless, he said, he felt that he had too little experience in city management to confidently make decisions that a more experienced administrator might find straightforward.

He also admitted to the "fault" of taking problems and difficult situations too much to heart and said that this trait made an already difficult job sometimes overwhelming.

As if to emphasize that point, Council President Debra Jones noted that Schiefer is often still at the office well into the evening. Mayor R. Gerald Hethcoat commented that he'd received e-mails sent by Schiefer near midnight.

Schiefer said that he felt strongly that he still had a lot of learning and growing to do as finance director. He added that he would be happy to assist a new city manager should his help be requested.

To the consternation of the council, he also said that, while he enjoyed the council's approbation at the moment, he knew that the situation could change, if he made unpopular decisions or if new council members felt differently about either his performance or the scope of his responsibilities. Since the appointment and retention of the city manager are political decisions, he admitted to apprehension that a changed atmosphere could mean the loss of a job in a city to which he is intensely loyal. Council members, of course, rushed to reassure him of their continued support, with Councilman Brooks Holloway declaring that only if Schiefer himself changed would the council's opinion of him be altered.

At last the council members accepted that Schiefer's decision has been deeply considered and, from his perspective, it was best for both him and the city.

Council members expressed their thanks when Schiefer reassured them that he would remain as interim city manager, as well as finance director, until a permanent manager is hired.