As usual, the Marathon City Council passed the gavel at the first meeting following a November election. Outgoing Mayor Steve Cook thanked family, friends and staff for meeting the tough challenges presented by 2020, including coronavirus and the ransomware attack on city servers. Then incoming Mayor Luis Gonzalez moved to the center of the dais.
“I humbly accept the challenge of leading the great city of Marathon. This position is ceremonial, but it is my duty to do what is best, and as a council we will be better when we work together,” Gonzalez said. “Moving forward, I am counting on the citizens to participate and hold the city accountable and assist us in solving challenges that will arise. As a city, we can agree to disagree. But with compromise always comes cooperation. I look forward to working with each of you and I can’t wait for January 1st when we can leave 2020 behind.”
Marathon Councilman Mark Senmartin was named vice mayor.
The last item on the agenda at the Nov. 10 meeting was the discussion of George Garrett’s contract to become Marathon’s next city manager. Garrett was absent due to illness.
“It would be highly unusual to negotiate a contract without someone here to negotiate on their own behalf,” said city attorney Steve Williams. “We can either postpone the employment agreement, or suggest alterations of that contract even though he is not here to accept or reject or propose alternatives, or we can have another special call meeting at a later date.”
Councilmen Steve Cook and Dan Zieg jumped in with a proposal to name Garrett as interim city manager with outgoing City Manager Chuck Linsey continuing in his role, albeit virtually, until Garrett could resume his duties. That motion was shot down by the rest of the council.
Instead, Senmartin suggested alterations to the contract. For the portion of the contract that “encourages” Garrett to become a credentialed city manager, he suggested “requires as possible.” He also suggested that any changes to severance pay outlined in the contract currently would need to pass with a supermajority council vote.
The original contract called for Garrett’s duties to include both city manager as well as planning director (his current title), and a proviso that either the city or Garrett could opt out and Garrett could return to just his duties as planning director. Councilman John Bartus, who suggested that clause, seconded an amendment to the employment contract where Garrett would remain as planning director until a replacement can be found.
Williams said he would amend the contract and present it to Garrett for his signature. In the meantime, the council also voted 4-1, with Senmartin dissenting, to have Lindsey continue in his role remotely until Dec. 21 for continuity’s sake.
Garrett will earn $160,000 a year with 152 hours of vacation. If he becomes a credentialed city manager, he will receive a 5% pay raise. The first review is set for six months, and then 12 months, and then yearly thereafter. An above average evaluation would mean another 3% to 5% raise.
The contract spans three years, but the city manager serves at the pleasure of the council and can be terminated without cause. If that happens, the severance pay is 20 weeks of base pay. If the city manager breaks the contract, there is no severance pay.
Garrett could not be reached for comment as of presstime.