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It's deja vu all over again. But as West Jordan makes a plan to replace its fifth city manager in six years, at least one thing is different: This time it's amicable.
The City Council voted unanimously at a special meeting Friday to accept Mark Palesh's resignation. Palesh left retirement to take over as city manager in 2015 amid an array of lawsuits, infighting and power plays. In the past 18 months, he's accomplished what he'd set out to do in the position, he said in a letter sent to the council at the end of June informing them he would not be renewing his contract.
"I was getting a little bit bored in retirement, so I put my hat in and I was selected. I had a sit-down with the council and looked at all the problems the city had, and I felt that I could make a difference," he said in an interview. "I feel I've done a lot, and now it's time to go back into retirement."
Palesh noted in his letter that he had, among other things, "settled three lawsuits without engaging attorneys," "initiated the planning, design financing, and in some cases, the construction of" three new buildings within the city and secured West Jordan a voting seat on the Salt Lake City airport board.
Mayor Kim Rolfe described Palesh's departure as "an amicable exit strategy. It's really peaceful, and it's really nice," he said, adding, "There has been much different than that in the past."
In 2014, Bryce Haderlie took over as interim city manager after Richard Davis abruptly resigned in the wake of a lawsuit accusing city officials of civil-rights abuses and amid questions by one City Council member about his outside work as a senior executive in a government consulting firm. Davis received a severance package worth about $200,000.
Haderlie, who now is the assistant city manager in Cottonwood Heights, left West Jordan shortly after the city named Palesh as its new manager. He had competed against Palesh for the job and was a finalist for the position.
City Manager Tom Steele, who served in the position before Davis, retired in March 2011 under Mayor Melissa Johnson, whom he said had forced him out. City Recorder Melanie Briggs was city manager during the search for his replacement.
Despite West Jordan's rocky past, Palesh said the city is in a good position as he prepares to once again retire.
"We haven't really been in the news in the last two years, whereas before we were in for all kinds of things," he said. "So looking at the lack of publicity, I think, is a good thing."
But as the City Council prepares a transition plan, it's aware that more disruption could come. The council is considering asking voters in November whether West Jordan should change its form of government from a council-manager model to a council-mayor one, which would fundamentally change the manager's role.
Palesh will continue to serve as city manager until Sept. 10. Afterward, he will receive a severance package of $185,289, which is made up of his accrued benefits and six months' compensation.
"It's been great working with Mark," Rolfe said. "I'm glad he came out of retirement to take this job. We knew it was going to be temporary, and we have been able to accomplish a lot of good things for the city while he's been here. I truly do wish him the best in his retirement going forward."
Though Palesh will no longer have a presence at City Hall, he said he'll still be available to advise the city at no cost on an informal and as-needed basis.
"I'm always on tap if there's a question on something," he said. "I'm looking at each city as kind of one of my children. I want to see them grow up straight and strong." firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @tstevens95