Out with the old and in with the new. It seems that the door for folks who work for Mayor Weinberger will revolve a couple more times in the next few weeks. Recently hired CEDO Director Noelle MacKay will be leaving her position after just two years, and the mayor’s chief of staff Brian Lowe will be leaving after three.
It seems that those hired by Mayor Weinberger don’t tend to stay, and it’s a very troubling sign as we enter years 6-9 of his mayorship. Sometimes folks leave because they don’t mesh well with a community that has historically valued robust democracy and public discussion. It may have to do with the supposedly stifling and controlling environment in City Hall, where rumor has it that one former city department head quit due to our mayor’s numerous tantrums. What is clear, however, is that it’s hard to hire, or keep female department heads in this city, and this is a troubling recurrence.
Don’t take my word for – here’s a 2016 editorial from the Free Press.
“Weinberger deserves credit for recognizing the importance of the gender issue, saying, “We know we do better work if we have a good gender balance.” Yet since taking office in 2012, only three of Weinberger’s 11 department appointees have been women. A city leadership dominated by white men projects a distinct message, one that resonates loudly among people who do not see themselves among those who hold the power.”
Department Heads Hired by Mayor Weinberger Who Have Quit
- Bob Rusten, Chief Administrative Officer, 5 years.
- Jesse Bridges, Parks and Rec Director, 4 years.
- Peter Ownes, CEDO Director, 4 years. (His treatment towards an elderly renter in California became public and he resigned.)
- Rubi Simon, Library Director, 4 years.
- Noelle MacKay, CEDO Director, 2 years.
Current Department Heads Hire By Mayor Weinberger and Still In Office
- Eileen Blackwood, Burlington City Attorney, 6 years. (Worth noting that Mayor Weinberger’s first pick was Ivy-League-educated friend Ian Carleton, who claimed he should be paid more because of his elite Ivy league education.)
- Gene Richards, Airport Director, 5 years.
- Chapin Spencer, DPW Director, 5 years.
- Neil Lunderville, Burlington Electric, 4 years.,
- Brandon Del Pozo, Police Chief, 3 years.
- Yaw Obeng, Superintendent BSD, 3 years.
- Steven Locke, Fire Chief, 3 years. (Came from Mayor Weinberger’s hometown of Hartford.)
- Beth Anderson, Former Chief Innovation Officer, 3 Years. (Soon to be Chief Administrative Officer.)
- Mary Danko, Library Director, 1 year.
- Cindi Wight, Parks and Rec Director, under 1 year.
- Brian Lowe, soon to be Chief Innovation Officer.
On top of this, folks who work closest with Mayor Weinberger get rewarded handsomely after they’ve worked for 3 years under his tutelage.
- His first chief of staff, Mike Kanarick, lasted 3 years and makes $132,000 a year at Burlington Electric, where he makes $10,000 a year less than the director.
- Brian Lowe, his second chief of staff, also lasted 3 years and if his new job pays as much as when Anderson leaves, he will be making over $112,000 a year, a significant pay raise from his current $75,000 a year.
While it’s unfair to say that what Mayor Weinberger is doing is different than his predecessors, it’s worth questioning what sort of abuses are likely to occur when any Burlington mayor can hand out six-figure city jobs for their closest friends and advisers, and it leads the public to question whether these political patronage hires are the best employees for the job. You’d have to ask your local Burlington Electric employee how things have been working out – rumor has it that folks in BED have to work around Mr. Kanarick. An independent hiring committee and an independent ethics board, could help bring honesty and transparency to this issue.
I’m starting to understand why so many department heads are getting residency exemptions for personal hardship. Since so few of them stick around more than 4 years, why buy a house if they’re thinking of leaving soon after they’re hired?