Special meeting scheduled to discuss Watertown city manager position

Oct. 7—WATERTOWN — City Manager Kenneth A. Mix has met with the city councilman who's been blamed for his sudden announcement that he had enough and plans to leave his job when his contract expires at the end of the year.

Councilman Cliff G. Olney III met with Mr. Mix for 90 minutes on Friday to talk about what it would take for Mr. Mix to stay on as city manager.

Councilman Olney said they had a frank conversation — from one man to another — about what led to Mr. Mix's seemingly abrupt decision to leave Watertown City Hall. He stepped in as city manager in early 2020 after the resignation of Richard M. Finn and was permanently hired later that year.

"I think it was productive," Councilman Olney said. "I think it went well. We'll see what happens. I'm going to make some changes in how I approach things."

Mr. Mix laid out what he thinks about the situation, and things he'd like to see changed, Mr. Olney said, adding that his friends, Todd DeMar and P.J. Simao, both told the councilman that he's been "wrong" in the way he's acted relative to Mr. Mix.

At Monday night's council meeting, Mr. Mix notified council members in a letter that he would not be renewing his contract after it expires on Dec. 31.

He did not specify what prompted his planned departure, but Councilman Olney's behavior of micromanaging city government has been blamed for his decision.

During Friday's meeting, Councilman Olney said he also made sure that Mr. Mix knew that he and the other council members support and respect him and the job he's doing.

Council members have scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday night to talk about how they can persuade Mr. Mix to stay. An executive session is expected at the 6 p.m. meeting in City Council chambers.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith talked to Mr. Mix on Thursday after talking to council members Lisa A. Ruggiero and Patrick J. Hickey. He told the city manager where things stood with them.

"The issues need to be addressed," the mayor said. "Ken needs to be able to do his job and that's what's he should be able to do."

Councilwoman Ruggiero said Friday that the session will solely deal with trying to convince Mr. Mix to stay in the $125,000-a-year position.

"I think we can come up with something that would work with Ken," she said.

Mr. Mix's decision comes at a time when the city is looking at hiring an assistant to the city manager. The city has posted the opening after agreeing during the spring budget deliberations to add the position.

Councilwoman Ruggiero suggested that the new assistant to the city manager could take on some of Mr. Mix's work load and could help convince him to stay.

"As I see it, it could be something that could help," she said.

While he doesn't know "how this will end up," Councilman Hickey said he thinks they can resolve Mr. Mix's concerns and get him to stay.

He briefly talked to the mayor earlier this week about the situation. The mayor wants to get council members together to discuss the situation.

"I think there can be some policies and procedures that can be put in place," Councilman Hickey said.

The city needs to be ready for the next step if it can't be worked out with Mr. Mix, Mayor Smith said. He's contacted former Ogdensburg City Manager John C. Krol about taking on responsibilities of helping the city find a successor for Mr. Mix.

Mr. Krol has been involved in looking for city manager candidates for the city in the past. He also served as interim city manager.

A City Council work session scheduled for Tuesday has been canceled.