Deputy Mayor Calls for City Manager to Take Early Retirement
Last updated 5/23/2020 at 8:56am
Lake Wales Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson surprised his fellow commissioners at the end of their Tuesday May 19 meeting with a call for City Manager Ken Fields to begin planning for an early retirement.
Gibson said he met with Fields Monday and told him he wanted him to leave on a positive note after he helps prepare the 2020-21 budget, which takes effect Oct. 1. Fields' current contract expires in 2022.
"I want when there is a parting for everybody to respect each other and for the city manager to feel good about having been the city manager of Lake Wales," Gibson said.
Gibson asked for commissioners to withhold their comments until they had time to think about his recommendation. Fields asked if there was consensus for Gibson's suggestion to be brought forward as a commission action item and all five agreed it should at least be brought up for discussion. The next regular city commission meeting is June 2, one day before the first budget workshop.
Acknowledging some city employees oppose allowing Fields to obtain a city pension without completing 10 years of service, Gibson said he will support Fields being able to buy extra service to leave with a lifetime pension after just seven years in the position.
"One of the things I believe in is burn no bridges – we've been through city manager exits and the hard feelings that come with that," Gibson said.
Gibson said it is time for "a new voice" and new leadership to move the city forward to implement the Dover Kohl plan for downtown redevelopment.
"I think what we would accomplish with this is the Dover Kohl plan would be consistently administered from the ground up by someone who was evaluated against a lot of other folks for their competence in this area and for their experience and achievements," Gibson said. "We don't want to gamble with this thing."
Gibson also said he is concerned that "community friction" is turning into a racial issue. Because he is in charge Fields is being held responsible for the problems, so Gibson said it is time for a "fresh start."
"I think there should be some changes made responsive to community friction. I think a lot of it just has to do with trust from people who know and are comfortable with each other."