Vale City Council tabs Lamb to fill in as city manager quits

Vale City Manager Russell Kirkpatrick resigned last week and the city council selected former city manager Katy Lamb to fill his position. (The Enterprise/Rachel Parsons).

VALE – The Vale City Council selected part-time city finance director Katie Lamb to be the interim city manager Friday night during a special meeting.

The decision came just three days after Russ Kirkpatrick resigned as city manager for reasons, at least officially, that remain unclear.

The council also agreed to name Marea Hartwell, the city’s bookkeeper, to be the assistant city manager.

Lamb served as the city manager until February, when the city chose Kirkpatrick to fill her spot as she prepared to retire.

Kirkpatrick’s departure was abrupt and finalized after a marathon executive session during the council’s regular meeting July 28. The council voted unanimously to accept Kirkpatrick’s resignation and agreed to pay the former Arkansas resident his full salary for July and approved a $25,000 severance package. Kirkpatrick’s salary was $72,000.

“I serve at the pleasure of the city council. They wanted to go down a different road,” Kirkpatrick said last week.

Kirkpatrick said the decision was unexpected but “there is nothing I can do about it.”

Vale City Councilor Christine Phillips declined to elaborate on Kirkpatrick’s resignation in an interview last week.

“The council, after much deliberation, made a decision based off what the council felt was best for the city of Vale and its citizens,” said Phillips.

Vale Mayor Mike McLaughlin was unavailable for comment last week or Monday. Councilor Monty Bixby said last week he had no comment on the matter.

There were some hints about Kirkpatrick’s resignation during the special meeting Friday. Phillips said during the meeting that “with Russ gone, I don’t think this is the end of the concerns we have in public works. Those problems haven’t gone away.”

“If something comes up, they can’t blame it on Mr. Kirkpatrick any longer,” said Phillips.

McLaughlin said at the meeting that he would “step up and deal with public works.”

“Yes, all of those issues you referred to are not going away,” said McLaughlin.

The decision to tab Lamb as interim city manager is only short term, said McLaughlin. The council will tackle whether to hire a permanent city manager in the future, said McLaughlin.

“Right now, let’s take care of the next few weeks and think about it for a while,” he said Friday night.

McLaughlin said the process to advertise the city manager position, collect applications and then do interviews would mean a final decision couldn’t be made until “right around election time.”

“I don’t want to go down that road yet. I want to stabilize the city,” said McLaughlin.

The reasons for Kirkpatrick’s resignation remain mysterious and he said last week that “I don’t want to say anymore.”

“I don’t want to make any comment that would be derogatory to the city because that is not fair, not to the citizens of Vale,” Kirkpatrick said.

The city’s eight-member hiring committee selected Kirkpatrick from a field of 12 candidates Feb. 19. Kirkpatrick began work at the city March 16.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at 541-235-1003.


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