Town Manager Tracey Stevens is leaving Ocean Ridge in September, a departure town commissioners will discuss Monday, July 25 at an 11:30 a.m. special meeting at Town Hall.
“I really wasn’t looking to leave Ocean Ridge because I love serving the residents here. However, I was presented with an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up to manage the Town of Haverhill which aligns with my professional and personal goals,’’ Stevens told The Coastal Star in an email.
“I will truly miss serving the residents of Ocean Ridge and working alongside some of the best colleagues in local government any Town Manager could ask for. I am confident that the extremely competent and professional staff that Ocean Ridge employs will carry on my care and compassion for the Town.”
A majority of town commissioners said they are sorry to see Stevens go.
“She has a very good offer and probably a little less stress,’’ said Mayor Susan Hurlburt, who spoke with Stevens in person on Friday and today, July 18.
“She proved herself to be a true professional at every turn. She doesn't do things lightly. This must have taken a lot of thought.’’
Stevens, whose salary is $132,500 and who also served as finance director, had worked for the town for six years. Her last day will be Sept. 12 unless the commission decides to let her go sooner.
“A sad day for our town indeed,’’ Vice Mayor Kristine de Haseth said in an email to Stevens and the other four commissioners on Friday.
“Tracey was hands down the most professional, transparent, impartial and hard working town manager we’ve ever had. She has helped us transition to a sustainable, wonderfully staffed town with an admirable level of service on all fronts. She will be sorely missed and difficult to replace,’’ de Haseth said in the letter.
“But don't think for one second that the inmates will be allowed to run the prison again. Those days are in the rear view mirror.’’
Commissioner Martin Wiescholek called Stevens’ departure “a huge loss for our town.
“I can only hope we find a replacement who is equally as good as she is and equally as committed. I know she is very well liked with the residents, and her open door policy I'm sure will be missed by many when she is gone,’’ he said.
Commissioner Steve Coz, a frequent critic of Stevens, did not immediately return a call from The Coastal Star.
“Everybody should be able to move on to bigger and better things and I wish her luck,’’ said Commissioner Geoff Pugh, who has served on the commission through five different town managers. “Through five town managers, she has been a reasonably efficient town manager.’’
While the other three commissioners gave Stevens glowing reviews in her most recent evaluation, Coz and Pugh raised questions about her abilities and effectiveness.
Hurlburt and Wiescholek are up for election in March 2023. If either loses, that could lead to a shift in the balance of power on the commission.
“She told me she was leaving because she was unexpectedly offered a position that she could not refuse,’’ Wiescholek said. “And not knowing what her employment status is after the ‘23 election, she probably didn't want to take a chance on being unemployed in April 2023.’’
Her departure comes a month after Town Clerk Karla Armstrong announced she was leaving to attend law school.
“We were short-staffed as it was in the beginning before those two left and we are putting a whole lot more strain now on our remaining employees, which could potentially trigger them to be overworked and at some point decide they will seek other employment as well,’’ Wiescholek said.