OP-ED: Antioch Mayor offers his comments on the dismissal of city manager
By Dr. Sean Wright, Mayor of Antioch
The statement below represents my thoughts as Antioch’s mayor, not the city council’s.
Elections bring about change that inspires new direction, fresh philosophies and reenergized hope. Here in Antioch, the recent city council election stirred a renewed sense of civic passion among a community that wants to see things improve. Volunteers are stepping up in greater numbers to serve on city commissions. Through phone calls, emails and meetings, more and more citizens are voicing their desire to help. Our city has a phenomenal window of opportunity to take advantage of a growing economy, the expansion of eBart, and the completion of Highway 4. With this groundswell of community support behind us, I have never been more excited about Antioch’s future.
However, change often causes tensions to arise. Our electorate voted for change, and newly elected leaders such as myself pushed for change. Quite simply, I feel the city manager failed to support us in our efforts. In fact, he was recently quoted in a newspaper article as saying that “They need to stay in their lane,” “they” referring to members of the city council. Such a statement, I believe, reflects our former city manager’s belief that the city council needs to follow his lead, when in fact, the manager serves at the pleasure of the city council.
It is not the role of a city manager to control city council. That is not the way the system is supposed to work. Citizens elect councilmembers to represent their interests in city hall, and councilmembers set the policies for the city. As an unelected “at will” employee, the city manager’s only duty is to implement those policies. When the manager begins establishing his own policies, he is the one who has strayed from his “lane.”
The bottom line here is that the city council and our former manager disagreed with the role a city manager should play. Even if the manager had acted in good faith in doing what he felt was required of his position, the law allows the elected city council to dismiss their appointed city manager. That’s what it means to serve at the pleasure of the city council and to be an “at will” employee.
I wish Mr. Duran all the luck in the world, and harbor no ill feelings toward him at all.
While the city council’s decision moves the city forward in a positive direction, unfortunately, there will be a short-term cost. However, I firmly believe that the long-term gains are worth it. Our citizens did not vote for the status quo—they demanded change. Right now, we are creating a cohesive team capable of working together to take advantage of the amazing opportunities in front of us. As a council, it’s our duty to move forward quickly so that Antioch can finally begin achieving its potential.