Gardner submits resignation letter to council
By LYNETTE SOWELL
At the end of Tuesday night’s Copperas Cove city council meeting, the council received a letter of resignation from city manager Andrea Gardner.
After holding a scheduled executive session regarding Gardner, the council emerged with Mayor Frank Seffrood reading the letter aloud to those assembled. The council then voted 4-3 to accept her letter of resignation, with Councilmen Dan Yancey, Jay Manning, Marc Payne and Charlie Youngs casting aye votes, with councilmen David Morris, James Pierce Jr and Kirby Lack voting against it.
On Wednesday, Mayor Frank Seffrood shared his perspective on what’s next for city operations, with Gardner’s upcoming departure.
“One thing, not to sound uncomplimentary, but the loss of one person in the system doesn’t halt the system; it simply makes others plan to do things to continue what was started. There are a lot of ongoing things that Andrea was involved with and charged with getting done, and we can’t say, well, okay, she’s leaving, we're dead in the water. We’ll just have to take out some more oars.”
Seffrood called the timing “unfortunate” as the city will be going into the “business end” of the budget planning process for the next fiscal year. Presently there are two deputy city managers in place, Parks & Recreation Director Joe Brown and Budget Director Ryan Haverlah.
“(Gardner) was very adept at getting these things done…She has been doing a good job at grooming those two individuals to take over, not necessarily totally the reins but be well aware of what’s going on,” Seffrood added.
As for the reason behind the resignation, Seffrood does not know.
“It was simply her decision to go; I didn’t press her for any answers to why. She’s old enough and professional enough that I’m sure she knows what she’s doing.” Seffrood said. The initial step for the council, he said, will be to get an interim city manager appointed or brought on board, if there’s not someone on board already.
Recently elected Place 7 councilman Charlie Youngs offered his own insight on Tuesday night’s turn of events.
“It was not a surprise,” Youngs said about Gardner’s letter of resignation. “She did not want me to get elected, and I got elected. She didn’t want Marc elected, and he got elected. They have a background together. She wanted the MDD [municipal development district] and the MDD failed.
“So, Ms. Gardner was 0 for 3 of what she wanted to get done and didn’t get done. She’s smart enough to know, especially with the comments that I made in the forum, I said, the city council over the last three years has destroyed the chamber, has destroyed the EDC. If the city takes the EDC under their control – and I said it in the forum – there will be no economic development.”
As far as what he sees as the next steps for the council, Youngs, echoing Seffrood’s comment, said the council needs to get an interim city manager put in place. Youngs also said his priority will be to bring the Copperas Cove Economic Development out from “under the city.” Since the EDC has been under the city, he said there has been no business recruiting, retention, or marketing plans, no EDC facility, and no staff save for one.
Prior to the letter being read at the end of the meeting, Marc Payne took his oath of office for city council place 6 during the workshop Tuesday night.
“We were actually looking to see if we couldn’t work together,” Payne said of the relationship between the council and Gardner. “I don’t know why she made the decision. I hope it works out for her and for the city to part ways. I don’t wish anything bad for her; she was effective at a number of things that she did.”
Councilman Morris, who voted against accepting Gardner’s letter of resignation, called it an “honor” to have worked with Gardner.
“I’m excited to be a part of the process to find our next city manager. They have big shoes to fill.”
In Gardner’s letter of intent to resign, she gave February 16, 2018 as the effective date and said “it has been a pleasure to work with the City of Copperas Cove for the past twelve years.”
In her letter, Gardner did not give a reason for the resignation: Gardner had applied for city manager positions in several cities throughout Texas over the last several years, most recently being one of the top four candidates for city manager in Sealy, Texas. Earlier this month, Gardner withdrew her application from consideration for that spot.