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Big changes afoot in Yelm – An Editorial

Big changes in Yelm’s leadership are happening, highlighted by the recent news that 30-year City Hall veteran & Yelm’s current City Administrator Shelly Badger is leaving her post.

This follows others who have left leadership positions, all mysteriously without explanation:
– Former Yelm Public Works Director Tim Peterson mysteriously was released from his position and replaced over a year ago, still with no explanation given by the city,
– Former Project Manager Stephanie Ray left the city early this year, with no explanation given by officials. Ray was a warm, personable and very responsive city staffer.
(Ray had oversight on several in-progress projects, hence delayed when she left and subsequently picked-up by Badger and include the Mossman realignment intersection, Yelm Ave. W. sidewalks, and the Yelm Community Center),
– Interesting that Badger is leaving a post with outstanding salary ($131,220/year, Yelm’s highest) and fringe benefits and is so well-respected in representing Yelm on the city’s economic development and water resource planning efforts, the South Thurston Economic Development Initiative (STEDI) committee and participates in the South Sound Military & Communities Partnership Steering Committee.
– While not a city employee, newly hired Yelm Chamber Executive Director Casey Cochrane has been a very high-profile face for Yelm and mysteriously left his post after less then 6 months, with the Chamber Board totally silent on this issue. The Chamber members and all applicants for his job need to know why. Afterall, this is a non-profit which takes public money, meaning that transparency is required from such an organization, yet such has not been the case.

– Are valued city staff leaving because of disagreements with Mayor Harding’s management style?
All of this is in addition to the fact that Yelm has been named “non-business unfriendly” and recently lost a huge locally owned business to Tumwater when Ice Chips felt they had too many city roadblocks to expanding here. Lack of public process has been the hallmark of this city’s leadership for 10 years.

– This city seems to have misplaced priorities, as example, by moving ahead with a scaled-down community center after two public bond measures failed, yet has one of the most understaffed Police forces of any town this size in the state. Is funding a community center which includes a high-end commercial kitchen really necessary, compared to having an adequately staffed and compensated Police Dept?

– Will Mayor Harding continue his usual ways of everything done behind closed doors in secret Executive Council Sessions, or will he be more transparent with all of these changes afoot?
Local citizen and property owner Steve Craig raised this issue in his Letter to the Editor published in the Nisqually Valley News (NVN) last Friday:
Process to Hire New City Administrator Needs to Include the Public
Click here to read Craig’s astute assessment.

– In announcing Badger’s resignation, the Nisqually Valley News seemed to be warning/reminding Mayor Harding to follow the City Code in replacing her by adding:
“Badger said she and Mayor Ron Harding are working on a transition plan and working with department heads to ensure a smooth transition.”

“The city administrator position is appointed by the mayor and is subject to confirmation by majority vote of the Yelm city council, ‘to serve at the pleasure of the mayor,’ according to chapter 2.14 of the Yelm city code.

‘The city at its discretion may specify additional terms and conditions of employment in a written agreement executed by the mayor and approved by the city council,’ the code states.”
Read more

– The public is clamoring for change here and they’re getting it!
* For the first time in a decade, 3 of 4 City Council positions have multiple opponents offering voters a choice,
* One City Council member is stepping down and not running again,
* A new City Administrator and new Projects Manager not beholding to serving under Mr. Harding’s autocratic rule for years will bring a refreshing change at City Hall,
* This NVN Op-Ed last Friday spoke volumes, “City Attends Yelm Business Association Meeting” after Mr. Harding previously directed no city interaction with the YBA,
* Town Hall public forums have been reinstated here after 10 years without Mayor Harding even conducting one, thanks to the Yelm Business Assn. providing such public discourse.

– Change is a good thing!
* The public is forcing change that they will no longer stand for their voices to be ignored.
* People are stepping-up to serve on the Yelm City Council who are not part of The Yelm Cabal and want to make a difference to unite our town, not divide, as has gone here for a decade.
* Next year, the Yelm City Council WILL be comprised with representatives of change!

Yes, the final days of Yelm’s leadership deserving their egregious 2006 Jefferson Muzzle Award for subverting public discourse are at hand. A breath of fresh air is blowing into town as the old ways pass by the wayside. That Yelm Community Development Director Grant Beck participated in the Town Hall Forum last week was a welcome change, after Mayor Harding was publicly solicited to break the blockade of city representation at these forums:
Yelm Business Association Seeks Relationship With City

Let’s keep our eye on the city’s negotiations with our fine police force – that the city does the right thing by their constituents to properly staff AND remunerate Chief Stancil’s team!

Blogger Klein is a founding, current Yelm Business Assn. Board member.

Posted by Steve on June 22, 2015 at 6:54 am | Permalink

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