This squirrel wouldn’t mind relocation to Ojai (Photo: Kirkner)
Mammoth Lakes Town Manager Robert Clark will not be managing much longer.
Indeed, he has jumped to Ojai, Calif. to take a similar position.
He assumes his new duties effective Feb. 21. He will serve as Mammoth’s Town Manager through the Council meeting of Feb. 16.
A closed session of Council is scheduled for this Wednesday to discuss Council’s options moving forward for replacing Clark.
There is some community sentiment for hiring former Deputy Town Manager Karen Johnston on an Interim basis.
The Town forced Johnston into early retirement in September as part of a wider cost-cutting measure which eliminated nine municipal positions.
The move is a win-win for Clark and the Town of Mammoth Lakes, as the Town is saved from having to pay a $200,000 severance in the event it had chosen to fire Clark.
Sheet sources say Clark would have been dismissed had he not found another job.
Way to go O-jai-O
With a nod to the Pretenders, it’s fairly ironic to think of Town Manager Rob Clark exiting stage left right now, leaving Mammoth in a fair shambles.
The fact that he’s headed to Ojai is just pure brilliance. Reinforcing that old adage I heard once long ago that the way to succeed in Hollywood is to “fail up.” Meaning, it only matters that you get the role, not how you perform, because the role gives you a resume, and a resume implies that other people thought enough of you to hand you a job.
Which gives cover to the next group of people who hire you. If other people saw something in him, there must be something there, right?
My general analysis of Rob Clark is that … one couldn’t help but like him. He’s a nice guy. A bright guy. A loyal guy. He fought for his employees, even when his employees were wrong, or worse, incompetent.
Who doesn’t like that type of loyalty?
And I never heard him EVER criticize a Town Councilmember on any occasion, regardless of the number of times they freely bashed him in private.
I thought he was a very effective Town Manager during the good times, and he was an excellent liaison in working with other agencies. Clark lists commercial air service and the creation of the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority among his biggest accomplishments. He knew how to work within that group dynamic to get things done.
But he didn’t have the hard-ass personality to deal effectively with conflict. One gets the sense that a little more leadership from Clark might have reined in former Police Chief Randy Schienle in time to save his job.
And though Clark gives himself points for guiding Mammoth effectively through the recession, we all know the Town spent itself into a $9 million hole before anyone thought there was a problem, and Clark routinely fought any efforts to pare staff.
Moving forward, the Town desperately needs to reexamine how it does business. As it currently stands, the Town Manager in Mammoth is an all-powerful position. Council directs the Town Manager and the Town Manager directs everybody else and if the Town Council doesn’t like the direction, its only recourse is to fire the Manager, pay severance, and hope they have better luck in appointing the next benevolent dictator.
As one local active in Town affairs described it, Council doesn’t even have the leeway (based upon the current governmental structure) to speak directly to its department heads. And if a department head has a beef with the Manager, well, tough luck, because the only person that department head can appeal to as an avenue for recourse is the same person (Manager) they’re having the problem with.
Councilmembers are eternally frustrated because a Town Manager can often “interpret” the direction he/she’s given in a variety of “innocent” ways. Clark was a master of parsing language and intent. He heard what he wanted to hear and then did what he wanted to do. And lasted 6.5 years, far longer than the typical shelf life of a Town Manager (approximately four years).
So Rob is gone. And ensured himself a nice, soft landing in horse country in the process. It didn’t come without some nervous moments. As Clark said, the entire Ojai Council was holding a copy of the L.A. Times story about the loss of Mammoth’s Hot Creek litigation appeal as he entered the room for his final interview. But as Clark said, “I told them the truth. It was a situation I inherited.”
And from Geisel’s desk …
Following an incident involving an overheated boiler flue pipe on Jan. 19 that forced the Westin Monache to shut down for more than a week, the hotel reopened Thursday. Immediately following the smoky snafu, the hotel had relocated its guests to other lodging, but the Westin’s new General Manager, Brent Truax, who had only been in the job for a month or so when the incident happened, said the Westin at last had temporary repairs in place and been cleared to return to 100% operational status. Also back in operation is the Whitebark Restaurant, which Truax said was scheduled to return to “dinner as usual” Thursday evening. Initial hopes were that Westin would be reopened some time last weekend, but Truax said the hotel was nonetheless all geared up for a “busy weekend.” He added that permanent repairs, which are still progressing, were not expected to generate any further interruption in normal business.
ML Chamber Annual Meeting
Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce held its annual meeting Wednesday at Whiskey Creek. One of the key items: President Maggie Thompson (NPG Cable) installed the Chamber’s newly elected Board of Directors: Dawn Vereuck (Elegant Bath & Kitchen), Linda Wright (State Farm Insurance), Sean Turner (Mammoth Brewing), Rich Boccia (Mammoth Unified School District), Rick Phelps (High Sierra Energy Foundation), Gerald Mohun (Liebersbach, Mohun, Carney & Reed) and Brent Truax (Westin Monache Resort). They join Past President Eric Wasserman (Edward Jones Investments), Secretary Jack Copeland (MMSA) and Treasurer Corinna Korpi (Alta One Federal Credit Union).
In other Chamber news, Thompson gave her first “state of the Chamber,” discussing plans for the future that address increasing membership, various fundraisers and a “Thanks for visiting Mammoth. Come back soon,” among other plans. And Matthew Lehman pulled the curtain back on this year’s scheduled Mammoth Rocks, which he told the Chamber is currently being planned for the weekend of Aug. 26-27.
Peter Hespelt, 1930-2011
Peter (Dad) Hespelt (80), a resident of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., passed away in the early morning of Jan. 20. He was born in Springfield, Mass. in 1930, relocating to Mammoth in 1985. The son of Walter and Frances Hespelt, he leaves behind a brother Walter Hespelt Jr. in Kentucky, a sister Judith Brennan of Long Meadow, Mass., daughter Heidi Levreault and husband David of South Hadley, Mass., son Joseph Hespelt of Fort Brag, Calif. His loving grandchildren are Justin, Taylor, Whitney and Patrick. He also leaves behind his many dear friends and most notably Joe and Shelby Muller, and Robbie Collier who stayed with him until the end. He graduated from Technical High School in 1948, and then attended American International College in Springfield, Mass. Peter loved betting on life and spending time with his beloved cats Smokey and Sammy. A memorial mass will be held Friday, Jan. 28, at St. Joseph’s Church at 2:30 p.m. at 58 Ranch Road, Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Following the mass all are welcome to join for a celebration of life reception which will be held at Slocums Grill and Bar.