Saturday, September 27, 2008

City management the Don Williamson way

The Kearsley Park Pavillion

Kay Kelly, who is widely credited with reviving the fortunes of Kearsley Park while serving as a city project director, got the ax from Mayor Don Williamson earlier this month.

Kelly told Joe Lawlor of The Flint Journal that she didn't know why she got fired, but she "somehow must have irritated (Williamson)." She added: "(Williamson) doesn't have the best interests of the city at heart. He wants power."

The mayor already has a replacement in mind:

"Mayor Don Williamson is apparently considering a county commissioner for a key parks job, a potential move his critics are calling a political hiring," Lawlor reports.

"Commissioner Miles Gadola, R-Grand Blanc, said he is being considered for the Kearsley Park project director job. Gadola would replace Kay Kelly, who was abruptly fired on Friday after five years in the position.

"Gadola, who said he does not have any parks experience, said he's eager to learn on the job.

"'It's an intriguing job and one that I'm interested in,' said Gadola, who was laid off this year from his position as a city probation officer. Gadola was a victim of city budget cuts."

As usual, the mayor's actions are having financial repercussions:

"The $65,000 Kearsley Park position was paid out of a two-year, $150,000 Ruth Mott Foundation grant that's now in jeopardy.

"Steve Wilson, executive director of the foundation, said the foundation may move the money elsewhere.

"'It's a significant enough change that we would need a new proposal from the city,'Wilson said. 'Our question is why change something that's very successful? All of us are proud that Kearsley Park has been restored and is a very safe park in the heart of the city.'"

Not to worry says Williamson. He promises to fund the position out of his own pocket if the Ruth Mott Foundation pulls out.

The situation prompted Councilman Scott Kincaid to say he believes Williamson wants to give Gadola the job so that the mayor could influence the county board. The Flint Journal's Andy Heller captured reader outrage over the firing. And the move is also drawing fire from Flint bloggers:

"It is infuriating that in a town so often bereft of good news that Kay's remarkable project should have to fight for support, much less be axed," writes Macy Swain on Night Blind. "This is not just knucklehead myopia, this is urban sadism."

Gadola told the Journal that a city job would have no influence on his voting:

"Gadola said he has a 'great deal of honesty and integrity' and he wouldn't allow himself as a county board member to be influenced by a job in city government. He said even though he's worked for the city for 18 years, no one has ever asked him to vote a certain way since he's been a commissioner.

"'It hasn't happened, and I don't have any reason to believe it would happen,' Gadola said."

1 comment:

  1. This may be one of the most egregious actions by the Don. And that says a lot.
    As you know, I was a reporter for the Flint Journal for 20 years and often drove by the park on my way to calls and to the park for crime events.
    The place was a dump. I wouldn't pull over and stop there unless the police had already arrived. The place was full of trash and grafitti.
    Since Kay took over the place is cleaned up and a gem. At a recent play in the pavilion - "My Fair Lady" - there were standing room crowds for nearly every performance.
    People from all over came to the play and it is all due to Kay's work in cleaning up the park, pavilion, etc.
    This is an outrage, one that even friends of Mayor Williamson have to acknowledge is over the top.
    If Gadola takes this job after this, he will be the most unpopular person on the East side of Flint.
    Shame on Gadola if he takes part in this mess.



Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at