Saluda administrator shocks council with letter of retirement
Published 12:59 am Tuesday, April 14, 2015
By Leah Justice
The City of Saluda is seeking new leadership after administrator Erny Williams shocked council by handing them his letter of retirement as his monthly department report in the middle of council’s April meeting.
Saluda commissioners met Monday, April 13 and heard from Williams, who was the city’s second ever administrator and has been with the city for the past 12 years.
“I would like at this time to advise the board and I would like to make this official of my retirement effective May 1. And it’s effective April 16, which is Thursday, and will be my last working day here,” Williams told commissioners while handing each a harsh letter of retirement. “And a note to all the citizens of Saluda, from the bottom of my heart to each and every one of you, thank you for 12 years of the greatest time of my life.”
Williams received a standing ovation from the audience in a packed meeting room. Williams also received support from a few residents, one who spoke out from the audience following Williams’ announcement.
“You have done a wonderful job and we love you and we’re upset,” said resident Margaret Miller. “I know I am. This is very shocking, very shocking.”
Commissioners did not comment following Williams’ announcement. Saluda Mayor Fred Baisden instead asked Williams if he had an update on city hall renovations. Williams responded that he thinks commissioners know the update.
“This is y’all’s fault,” Miller yelled from the audience during Baisden’s city hall update. “Because y’all made it so hard on him.”
Baisden called Miller down, saying, “Margaret, Margaret, in order please,” while pounding his gavel.
Miller responded, “I don’t care.”
Williams’ letter began by asking council to accept the letter as his official notice of retirement and exit interview.
He said his last day will be Thursday, April 16 as he has accrued vacation time to complete his remaining days through May 1.
“I have accepted a job elsewhere,” Williams said in his letter.
After saying that the citizens of Saluda have been great to him and with their efforts he thinks the city has made great progress, he went on to say he cannot continue to work with the mayor and three newest commissioners.
“They continue to micromanage and try to play employees against each other,” Williams said in his letter.
Williams said the city has lost six of eleven employees recently with a combined experience of 58 years.
“The cost to hire or train that kind of expertise is a tremendous cost,” Williams said. “What a waste!”
Williams went on to point out police commissioner Mark Oxtoby, who Williams only named as the new police commissioner, saying he tries to micromanage the city and police department, just as he runs his plant.
“It’s to the point that he has threatened employee’s careers for not working a holiday,” Williams said. “It is clear they do not care about their employees or the citizens of Saluda, young and old. They only represent select groups and personal projects.”
Williams ended his letter thanking current commissioner Leon Morgan and former commissioners John Kinard and George Sweet as well as past and present employees and anyone else who helped him along the way.
Kinard attended Monday’s meeting and said upon leaving in his 14 years serving as Saluda commissioner he has never seen such a mess as the mayor and three commissioners can’t get along with employees. He mentioned the recent turnover of employees saying, “the micromanaging is terrible.”
The Bulletin asked the mayor and commissioners their response to Williams’ exit, with commissioner Carolyn Ashburn being the only one to respond in time for a late Monday night deadline. An email was sent at 10:19 p.m. following the meeting to Baisden, Oxtoby, commissioner Ashburn and commissioner Lynn Cass. The Bulletin did not have an email for commissioner Leon Morgan. Any responses the Bulletin receives after the deadline will be printed later this week.
“I certainly wish Erny well in early retirement and his new job,” Ashburn said. “He pulled Saluda through some very hard times and was literally ‘in the trenches’ making sewer and water work for Saluda citizens. His hard work is appreciated.”
Residents who spoke of the announcement were very supportive of Williams, but not supportive of council members.
John Morgan thanked Williams for his service, saying he went above and beyond his duties. Morgan said Williams tried to help Saluda save the medical center and he didn’t see anybody else step up to do that. Morgan said Saluda can’t replace Williams.
Morgan also suggested when finding a replacement, Saluda hire a manager instead of an administrator to take over the day-to-day operations of managing employees. Morgan said the board of commissioners should get out of managing the day-to-day and begin leading Saluda into the future.
Dotty Eargle said living right downtown she sees a lot of stuff that goes on and she sees Williams out there doing all kinds of work. She also said he is even kind to little old white haired ladies like her.
“And I appreciate Erny,” said Eargle, “and I know all of you people appreciate Erny too. And I’m so sorry to see him leave. I don’t know how he can be replaced.”
Ellen Rogers said, “Erny, I’m surprised it’s taken you this long.”
“You’ve dealt with a lot of stuff and you’ve dealt with it gracefully,” Rogers said. “I have seen such professional behavior from you in these public meetings when I have not seen the same from the man who is supposed to be leading our city.”
Baisden told Rogers to address the board.
“Well, Mr. Mayor, if you don’t want to be singled out, then don’t do anything to be singled out,” Rogers continued.
Baisden hit his gavel telling Rogers she was out of order.
“Thank you,” Rogers told Williams, “and there’s no possible way this board will ever know how much you have done for this city and I would love to see y’all out in your boots working when Erny leaves, and get a little taste for what he does. Thank you Erny.”
Williams’ letter of retirement to Saluda
Editor’s note: following is Saluda City Administrator Erny Williams’ letter of retirement he handed out to Saluda commissioners during the city’s Monday, April 13 meeting.
Mayor and commissioners,
Please accept the following as my official notice and exit interview. I am retiring from the City of Saluda on May 1, 2015. My last day will be Thursday, April 16. I will use accrued vacation time to complete the remaining days. I have accepted a job elsewhere. It is with great sorrow that I have to leave. The citizens of Saluda have been great to me. With their efforts, I think we have made great progress in the last 12 years. I would like to thank each and every one of them.
With that being said, I cannot continue to work with the mayor and three newest commissioners. They continue to micromanage and try to play employees against each other. The mayor told me to propose a raise for two new employees that increased their pay to levels above two of our officers that have been here for three and five years and within one step of our senior maintenance worker who has been employed with the city for 13 years. It is plain to see this is why we have lost six of eleven employees with a combined experience of 58 years. The cost to hire or train that kind of expertise is a tremendous cost. What a waste! The new commissioner of police tries to micromanage the city and police department, just as he runs his plant. It’s to the point that he has threatened employee’s careers for not working a holiday. It is clear they do not care about their employees or the citizens of Saluda, young and old. They only represent select groups and personal projects. After many employees’ meetings, it was clear they were not listening to any of the employees’ concerns. They talk about open communication, yet they never try to make it work, micromanaging at its best.
I would like to thank Leon Morgan, John Kinard and George Sweet, as well as all employees, past and present and anyone else who has helped me along the way. May God bless you all.
– Albert (Erny) Williams