Opinion

Budget cuts create

It’s the talk of the town: While Mayor Cary Bozeman was away on vacation in Hawaii last week, the Bremerton City Council fired his right-hand person. Well, technically, they eliminated her position.

Municipal services coordinator Sherril Huff-Menees’ career with the city came to an abrubt end during the Dec. 22 meeting. Huff-Menees was at the meeting, where she watched her job disappear before her eyes with one fell swoop and a simple majority vote.

Huff-Menees’ job role was a crucial one for the city: she served as the mayor’s eyes and ears. Through regular meetings with department heads, she kept her finger on the pulse of the city. If there was a conflict with the mayor’s schedule, she would attend meetings for him and report back so he wouldn’t miss a beat. She also had one of the city’s toughest jobs: she often served as a reliable media contact.

She had served the city in many capacities since 1994 and knew more about Bremerton than most could ever dream.

But now her career is over.

It happened like this: City Council Member Ed Rollman suggested that, to save the city’s money, either Huff-Menees’ job, 12 seasonal and part-time employees in the Parks and Rec. Department (saving $270,000), one full-time employee in the Economic Development office, one contract position (saving $110,000), or one managerial position in the Police Department (saving $85,000) should be eliminated.

The council chose Huff-Menees’ job — at a savings of $81,500, plus benefits — to the city, as it was considered the lesser of all evils.

Huff-Menees was the subject of much controversy in March 2003 when her job position was reclassified, for which she received a pay raise of $26,624. The raise caused a stink in the community and on the council. Bozeman gave her the raise because her new job description included management and leadership duties within the city. The council did vote on, and approve, her new salary.

Bozeman, it should be noted, has taken the high road and won’t comment on the issue.

Whether the council’s decision was personal, professional or just economic, it is unfortunate. At this time of change and growth, Bremerton needed her expertise.

Desperately.

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