City Manager Timothy Dodge might soon leave the meadows of Las Vegas for the “jungle” of Española after being offered the city manager post there.
“Welcome to the Jungle, Mr. Dodge,” Española’s legendary newspaper, the Rio Grande Sun, declared on its front page on Thursday.
Not so fast.
Dodge told the Optic on Wednesday that he’s waiting for a written offer from Española Mayor Alice Lucero, and that he has yet to decide whether to take the job. Other municipalities have also approached Dodge.
“I have a lot of mixed emotions right now about the whole thing,” Dodge said. “I will have been here for five years in a few months... It’s going to be a very tough decision.”
Dodge’s contract with the city of Las Vegas expires on June 30, and he has said that at a minimum he won’t leave before then.
The Las Vegas City Council went behind closed doors Wednesday evening to discuss “personnel matters.” Mayor Alfonso Ortiz said the governing body is discussing the possibility of a counteroffer.
“We talked to him a little bit last night,” Ortiz said. “It’s still not clear what he’s going to do.”
Ortiz said he hasn’t yet started looking for a possible replacement, explaining that it would be premature at this point.
Dodge was one of six applicants to apply for the Española job. Also applying were Abran Romero, Oscar Rodriguez, Gabriel Boyle, Frank Orona and Christian Crane.
In a letter of introduction Dodge submitted for the position in late April, he states, “The Honorable Mayor Alfonso Ortiz has expressed his wishes to extend my contract, although I believe it is time for me to venture on in the pursuit of my career.”
Española’s mayor selected Dodge for the position, and on Tuesday, the Española City Council unanimously ratified the selection of Dodge as city manager. The Española governing body also signed off on a $110,000 salary for Dodge, matching the salary he is currently receiving from the city of Las Vegas.
The Española governing body didn’t specify a contract period.
Dodge has served as Las Vegas’ city manager since 2009, having been appointed by then-mayor Tony Marquez.
Aside from Les Montoya, he has been the longest-serving city manager in Las Vegas.
“I think I’ve accomplished a lot while I’ve been here,” he said. “I think there’s a lot more to accomplish.”
Dodge said he was asked to submit a letter of introduction in Española after leading a pro bono workshop for city officials there several weeks ago. He said he held the workshop on his own time.
“I know I’d be able to go to Española and help them advance their organization,” he said.
Asked why he is contemplating leaving Las Vegas, Dodge pointed to the fact that his contract is expiring and the political climate he has been dealing with.
“If I’m going to consider something else, now’s the time to consider it,” he said.
Dodge said one of his concerns is the lack of stability he has. He said year-to-year contracts don’t provide stability.
The last time the City Council took up Dodge’s contract was in March 2013. At that time, a two-year contract had been proposed, but in the end, the governing body compromised and gave Dodge a 15-month contract and a $15,000 pay hike.
“In a city manager position you have to make tough decisions,” Dodge said. He said that given the lack of longterm commitment from the city of Las Vegas, he feels he is in a compromised position.
As city manager, Dodge has enjoyed a good relationship with the city’s unions and with most of the members of the governing body. When he took over the post, the city was years behind on its audits. Dodge’s administration managed to get the city caught up on its audits.
Also under Dodge, the city completed a Preliminary Engineering Report on its water infrastructure, a document that is serving as a road map for the water infrastructure projects that need to get done over the next 40 years. The city has begun tackling many of those projects and has secured millions of dollars in grants and appropriations for the projects.
At Wednesday evening’s Council meeting, Bob Wessely, a longtime advocate for water projects, told the governing body that the city is making tremendous progress.
“You and the city have an extremely diverse set of operations, and they appear to be really well organized, eager and marching efficiently toward meeting your aggressive goals and objectives,” he told the governing body. “You clearly have an effective management staff. I think and hope you are doing everything reasonably possible to keep all of those individuals happy in their jobs and working effectively for you.”
But the city’s current administration also has its critics.
Some argue that the city has hiked utility bills too much during Dodge’s tenure and that it is not doing enough to help struggling businesses in Las Vegas.
The city has also struggled with worker safety issues. Two city utility workers died in 2011 when the trench they were in collapsed, burying them.
A state Occupational Health and Safety Bureau investigation determined that city safety violations led to the men’s deaths. Since then, the city has implemented a series of safety policies, but there have been several incidents since then of city workers putting themselves or others at risk.