Centerville officials say a “much-needed cultural transformation of city government” has been at the root of heavy staff turnover in city hall.
Nine department heads or assistants have left Centerville since the beginning of 2018.
Mayor Brooks Compton said that he and council decided to address the issue after receiving a request from the Dayton Daily News for information on those who left their positions as well as receiving questions from citizens.
The city released a 1,027-word statement in which the mayor and council supported City Manager Wayne Davis’ leadership and revealed council’s thinking of how the city has performed after former City Manager’s Greg Horn’s departure in 2017.
Davis was given a three-year contract with the city that ends July 21, 2020.
“The city experienced the retirement of its 25-year city manager in July 2017 and appropriately recognized his achievements at that time,” Compton noted in the statement, signed by each member of council. “Although significant progress had been accomplished under his leadership, no leadership succession plan was established or presented to the council. It appeared that no staff members were prepared to assume the position.”
The statement said the city had developed a negative reputation among citizens, businesses and developers for lack of customer friendly service.
“Council members had engaged in conversations with citizens expressing a wide variety of complaints and concerns that provided ample anecdotal evidence that a negative culture had evolved,” the statement said.
That tension was created between council and staff as “the result of council efforts to advocate on behalf of citizens. The council concluded the negative culture was creating a significant barrier for economic development in the city and was impeding progress.”
In February, Jennifer Brumby resigned as the city’s human resources manager after serving less than a year. Her last day was March 22.
Brumby filled the position left vacant when Jennifer Wilder left in 2018 for a similar position with the city of Oakwood.
In March 29, Andrew Rodney gave his resignation as city planner, and Community Resource Manager Maureen Russell-Hodgson left the city and took a similar job with Springboro.
In February, Cynthia Ryan, Centerville’s assistant finance director since 2016, left for Franklin as she was appointed as its new finance director.
Last year, Jonathan Hudson left as Centerville’s finance director to take the same position in Springboro. Kristen Gopman left her position as assistant to the city manager in Centerville, which she had held for 12 years, and took the position of director of Parks and Recreation in Moraine.
Nathan Cahall left his position as economic development administrator to take the administrator position in Plain City. Former Police Chief Bruce Robertson retired in February 2018.
Council and Compton note that the decision to hire Davis remains the correct one in their estimation, adding that, “council is confident that the city of Centerville is on the right track toward continued progress and achievement of its strategic goals.”
As a 5-year strategic plan was developed when Davis took office, the city brought in a faculty member from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service to conduct several days of comprehensive staff training for senior and mid-level staff members.
Council expressed in the statement that they were advised by the consultant: “Staff turnover is foreseeable whenever a new leader follows a long-term leader, especially when the new leader has been charged with the task of transforming the culture of the organization.”
Compton explained that the statement released by the city underscores the council’s belief that culture change is a difficult process for any organization.
“Staff members who are unable or unwilling to embrace the new culture are likely to leave,” the statement read. “It is also common that many staff members who could become successful in the new culture also choose to leave because it is personally difficult to process change.”
While not singling out any employee that has left recently, the city said in its statement that, “none of the recent senior staff departures in Centerville have been involuntary and each person has his or her own story.”
Former city councilman Paul Gresham, who served for 16 years before retiring in 2015, expressed dismay at the city’s statement and response to the recent turnover.
“My experience was different,” he said. “I am curious to know why Centerville has lost so many valuable staff members over a short period of time.”
The Dayton Daily News has reached out to eight of the nine employees (Robertson retired) that have recently left senior or mid-level staffing positions. None of those reached wanted to comment.
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