Monday, August 19th, 2019

Payne is gone, leave the vacancy unfilled


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting Waukesha City Administrator Jim Payne has accepted a position with the Rio Rancho city government.

City Administrator Jim Payne has accepted an offer to become city manager of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, a community of 80,000 adjacent to Albuquerque.

Payne, 59, has worked for the city for nearly eight years, and he expects his last day here will be June 1.

Mayor Larry Nelson said he will push to continue the city’s current governing structure of a full-time mayor, full-time city administrator and part-time aldermen. Discussions on replacing Payne likely won’t happen until Nelson returns from vacation next week.

Some aldermen have suggested that one or the other top administrative position be reduced to part-time to save the city money. Payne said that the governing the city’s growth and watching its regional and statewide interests requires that two the full-time positions remain.

This contradicts an earlier report this week indicating that Payne was being passed over in a favor of a candidate from Texas.

Here is the report from the Rio Rancho Observer:

Last week, Rio Rancho Mayor Kevin Jackson had a list of three candidates to fill the city manager vacancy. On Tuesday, he narrowed it down to one.

Jackson announced Tuesday night he had received the acceptance of Jim Payne, the city administrator for Waukesha, Wis., to assume the office left empty by the council’s termination of Jim Palenick last December. He also called for a special session by the governing body Friday at 1 p.m. to approve Payne’s appointment, despite having a council meeting already scheduled for next Wednesday.

Until late last week, Payne was not considered the frontrunner. Jackson had said he was targeting Arlington, Texas, Deputy City Manager Ron Olson. Those negotiations stalled, however, as Olson’s requested salary was too high for the city – he was asking for $150,000 annually.

Payne, on the contrary, was asking only slightly more than the $120,000 contract Palenick had signed last fall.

While Payne was the city administrator in Waukesha, as an unelected official he was responsible for the daily operations of the city as well as creating the city budget. During the last budget cycle, Payne created a budget with only minimal input from the mayor that raised taxes and set the stage for requiring the city to go to referendum during the next budget cyle. His stated goal of the budget was to spend the maximum allowed by the state’s cap on tax increases. Under Payne’s tenure, the city has been unceasing in it’s quest for new revenue, and yet he was unaccountable.

The City of Waukesha should move to abolish the city administrator position and end the policy of taxation by a non-representative government. Waukesha is big enough, and has many citizens qualified enough, to take the leadership of the city in whatever direction the public chooses without relying upon non-representative government.

Whatever our differences with the current mayor’s beliefs, Larry Nelson is a capable man, no less capable than the man who runs a city ten times larger than our own just to the East. He is accountable to the public and he can be judged on the results. The same could not be said for City Administrator Payne.

In a recent interview with the Waukesha Freeman, Mayor Nelson gave himself an “A” for his performance as mayor after one year in office. We would disagree, rating him at best a “C” and would more likely give him an “incomplete” given the limited role of his current office. It’s time for the mayor to earn that “A” he boasts of. It’s time to abolish the City Administrator.

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