There will be no slow exit for Grand Island's outgoing city administrator. The day after the bombshell announcement that the mayor asked for her resignation, Mary Lou Brown has already left city hall.
Brown, and Mayor Jay Vavricek, had been under fire for their handling of several issues, most notably the fire chief's position that was left open for several months.
Brown's resignation was announced near the start of a regular city council meeting. The day after, she was nowhere to be found at city hall.
There will be no severance package. However, the former finance director will be paid for hours spent preparing the budget.
City Attorney Bob Sivick said, "She is acting on a consulting basis. We're going to use her expertise and institutional knowledge, primarily for the budget."
City council members say Brown's finance background may be part of her undoing.
Councilman Scott Dugan says he's "not going to say I told you so", but he believes Brown was in the wrong position with her skill set. He was among those who voted not when Brown was confirmed for the job. Dugan felt she lacked administrative experience.
Councilman John Gericke says Grand Island is not a training ground. He felt the position should have gone to someone with government experience. Brown's background was in the private sector.
The city attorney, acting as city spokesman, agrees they need an experienced boss.
Bob Sivick said, "Tentatively the city is planning on hiring an outside firm to handle that process. The reason for that is no one can complain somebody from inside city hall is manipulating the process. We will advertise nationally, we will seek the best candidate nationally and we will hire the best person we can."
Mayor Vavricek is not doing any interviews. Passed outside city hall, he said he's feeling better after chest pains put him in the hospital last week. In fact, he said he's "feeling chipper."
City council members wish Brown well, and praise the mayor for moving forward.
Council President Peg Gilbert said, "It's a new beginning. We want a clean slate. We want the very best for our community and our citizens."
Brown's last day is September 30, however, the mayor intends to name someone quickly to hold the position in the interim.
Day to day duties will be handled by department directors.
Vavricek also pledges to create an advisory panel of young and old to improve communication.
Brown had been heavily criticized. Firefighters sued the city, and a judge agreed with them that the city legally had to maintain a fire chief. Vavricek named an interim chief days before the court-ordered deadline earlier this month.
Firefighters have reported hostile working conditions at city hall. Citizens had also raised questions about the possibility of privatizing the wastewater plant and the need for a costly public safety study.
Vavricek has seen high turnover during his term as mayor. The following departments have received new leadership in that time: Utilities, Fire, Parks, Finance, Public Works, Legal, and Administration. That accounts for half of the department directors in the city.
City council members said they are moving forward, and said the mayor's decision to make a change in leadership was a wise move that they hope gets the city back on track.