With Scott Ullery’s recent announcement that he’ll retire as City Manager in December, the temperature of the upcoming City Council elections just went up several degrees. Hiring a City Manager is one of the most important decisions they can make and has both long-term and short-term implications. We’ve been fortunate to have such a skilled administrator as Scott Ullery, who has been a calm and consistent force at the City despite the continual challenges that come into his office from all corners. I’ve always found him to be ethical and fair, and while I know some people sought his removal, it’s usually because they’re trying to do something that doesn’t align with our city’s strategic plan, violates city codes, or requires Council approval. It’s a thankless job because you are always subject to public criticism and you get a new set of bosses every two years (and the best city managers, like the best editors, are often invisible and let others get the credit).
Selecting the next City Manager will be a crucial responsibility for the next Council–and it’s not an easy job. In my former hometown of Upland, California, we had a terrible series of City Managers during the past dozen years. The first was censured by his own professional association for unethical behavior and the most recent for beating his girlfriend and trying squelch the police investigation (and he’s also under investigation by the FBI for bribery). Nice. It’s really spun that community downward and the only reason it hasn’t made national news is because of the even worse situations in the cities of Bell and Vernon.
Will the next Rockville City Council be up to the task? I’m not even sure we’ll have enough candidates to fill all the seats. The election is four months away and candidates have to submit their petitions in two months, and so far, the only people who have officially announced are:
Mayor (one seat):
Council (four seats):
We won’t know who’s running until there’s a public announcement or a petition is filed with the City Clerk, so unfortunately I still have to operate on rumors, which are swirling around Bridget Newton, Tom Moore, and Mark Pierzchala, but I suspect a couple others will appear. If you know of a good leader in your neighborhood, urge them to consider running. The next couple years will be tough and we’ll need all the help we can get.