Cameron resigns over city manager dismissals

Kirk Cameron has resigned his seat on city council. The former councillor dropped the bombshell at the end of Monday's committee meeting.

Kirk Cameron has resigned his seat on city council.

The former councillor dropped the bombshell at the end of Monday’s committee meeting.

In an interview with the News yesterday, Cameron said he made the decision based on his strong disagreement with the recent dismissal of Robert Fendrick and Brian Crist.

City manager Christine Smith fired the longtime civil servants last week, without cause.

Cameron said it was something he could not personally support.

“I had a pretty sleepless weekend, it was a really tough decision,” he said.

“I was elected by the citizens and I have an obligation and certain responsibilities to them to stay put during my term, to do the business of governing they’ve asked me to do. I feel that some people may consider it to be wrong that I’d step aside for that (reason).

“But I just think about how much these two individuals have given to the community.”

Fendrick, the former director of corporate services, had worked with the city for 16 years, while Crist, the former director of infrastructure and operations, had served for 17 years.

Because it’s a personnel issue, neither Smith nor members of city council have provided reasons for the dismissal.

In an email, Smith said she respected that this was Cameron’s decision and she wished him well in the future.

She also said city council, now down to six members, isn’t obligated to have a byelection because of Cameron’s resignation.

He is longtime friend of Fendrick’s, which also factored into his decision to resign, Cameron said.

The pair’s friendship goes back to elementary school, and they were on the same shooting team at the Arctic Winter Games in Anchorage, Alaska in the 1970s.

“I have this long connection with him, and I know what he’s done in the community,” he said.

“Any advice I’ve ever received from him has been solid, and same goes for Brian, who stepped up in a big way when he became acting city manager (in 2013).

“I believe in people and that’s why I ran for office, I want to serve the city.

“And I believe these two have served.”

Cameron said he found out about the dismissal over a city council lunch briefing held last Tuesday.

And while he disagrees with the direction the city has taken, he is completely behind Smith’s decision not to reveal any further information about the dismissal, he said.

“She has to be quiet on this. This is about people’s lives, and personal information,” he said.

“I’ve been in those kinds of negotiations before, it’s standard. I respect that they can’t go public.”

Cameron plans on taking time to think about the role a city manager plays and whether or not the position should be altered.

“I’m wondering whether we need to reflect on that model in our system of governance,” he said.

“Structurally, if you have a political organization – like city council – and an organization that can make significant decisions independent of that political leadership, you’ve got a disconnect there.”

Mayor Dan Curtis said he was disappointed with Cameron’s decision, calling him a “good friend and colleague.”

With some big decisions before them, council could use “all hands on deck,” Curtis added. The city is planning to build two new headquarters for staff. It’s also considering the territory’s plans to build an outdoor sports complex and a continuing care facility in Whistle Bend, and it faces a controversial decision about whether to allow all-terrain vehicles on Rotary Centennial Bridge.

“Now we’ll be steering the boat with six instead of seven, which is a bit of a bummer. But I take solace in the fact that Christine Smith has an amazing team in place. We’re more than capable of running the city with six.

“Everyone has to make their own personal decisions, and Coun. Cameron made his. Quite frankly, if I decided to resign every time I was disappointed with a decision that was made administratively or within my council, I wouldn’t be mayor for very long.”

Cameron won a byelection in Dec. 2011 when he beat out 13 other candidates to win the seat vacated by former councillor Doug Graham.

In 2012, he was elected to city council in the municipal election.

In the time he’s served, Cameron said he’s most proud of council’s ability to listen to its citizens and their concerns.

“I think the mayor’s initiative to set up the town hall meetings was excellent. It’s a way to get more dialogue going in the community,” he said.

He’s also proud the city managed to keep its latest tax increase at 1.7 per cent, despite undertaking a $56-million building consolidation project.

“I’m saddened to step away because I want to contribute to my city,” he said.

“I believe there’s still a lot of work to be done here, I’d like to serve again. If people say they want me to step back up again, it’ll have a huge impact on whether I run in October.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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