In contentious (but civil) meeting, city council appoints Amber Withycombe as new city manager

7
849

Amber Withycombe will be Maplewood’s new city manager. She begins her new post on January 4.

At Maplewood council meetings Tuesday night — a work session and then the regular council meeting — the city council heard residents’ opinions (11 out of 13 negative) about the process the council used for hiring a new city manager, then voted 5-1 to appoint Withycombe to the post. Mayor Nikylan Knapper abstained from voting, and council member Chasity Mattox was the only “no” vote.

Amber Withycombe and her partner, Joshua Kryah, sit at Tuesday’s council meeting. She was appointed Maplewood’s new city manager.

Both meetings had time for public comment but it was in the work session, the first meeting of the night, where the discussion of the hiring and the residents’ comments took place. About 75 were in the room.

Mayor Nikylan Knapper read her comments regarding the search process (previously published in 40 South News) and most council members — minus Chasity Mattox — spoke defending the council and its hiring process for the new city manager.

Referring to recent comments on social media, Council member Shawn Faulkingham said it was crazy to say there was some sort of conspiracy. Eric Page said there needs to be a return to civility. He said the council is made up of seven distinct individuals — “There’s no cabal, I promise,” he said. Matt Coriell said he wished every council meeting was this full. “Your input is what we desire,” he said.

In the public forum that followed many residents and business owners criticized a lack of transparency and public notice of the job opening, as well as pointing out Withycombe’s lack of experience working for a municipality.

David Schlafly, the CEO of Schlafly Brewing, said he was worried about the safety and the security of Maplewood. “The new city manager, who I do not know, needs to understand the academic work called bowling alone, where everybody in the community is pulled together in a chain link, and if it breaks…it declines very quickly.”

Former council member Sandi Phillips told the council that input has to be solicited, and if they’re not actively soliciting comments they’re not doing their job.

Chad Garrison, after thanking the council for their service, told them they should be willing to say when they made a mistake, and he doesn’t understand the rush to hire someone. He said the city might be saving money by hiring local, but it’s at the cost of $130,000 to the former city manager.

Former mayor, Barry Greenberg, noted that the city managers from Brentwood and Richmond Heights are both paid close to $170,000, and both have extensive experience in their current and previous positions. “In my opinion, if she gets anywhere near the same salary as Brentwood and Richmond Heights then we shouldn’t stand for that. What we need here is experience. We have someone here who doesn’t have any experience at all.”

Council member Shawn Faulkingham told Greenberg that Withycombe’s salary is in negotiation.

Jennifer Phillips said it’s a “disservice the fill the largest position that we have in the city without so much as posting or even making public any type of job description. It also makes me wonder where else in our city we cut corners, where else we take the easy route because it’s quick, because we happen to know someone, because we threw our friends’ names in a hat…”

Eliza Coriell, owner of The Crows Nest, said council members Coriell and Page said a lot of wonderful things and that we can find some common ground, but it works both ways. “There are a lot of people here with a lot of really valid things not feeling heard,” she said. “The council needs to understand the perception of privilege that you’re putting forth when all the names of the people that were put up for this job are people that you know.”

Council member Chasity Mattox said after the meeting about her “no” vote, “I think the citizens wanted more, wanted us to dig a little deeper. I think if we would have just posted it on social media and opened it up we wouldn’t have had what we had here tonight. I had suggested that and it didn’t go anywhere, so I thought the best thing to show the citizens I heard them would be to vote no this time.”

Following the meeting Withycombe expressed confidence in her ability to do the job. “I knew that there was a lot to be done, based on Planning and Zoning, interviewing the city staff really brought forward a lot more stuff that we can do together.” Withycombe was appointed in 2020 by then mayor, Barry Greenberg, to serve on the city’s Plan and Zoning.

See the St. Louis Post-Dispatch coverage: Holleman: Facing dissent, Maplewood council appoints new city manager

 

 

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. Very well said, Sunny! Remember to vote in the April election against all the propositions mentioned, write in Barry Greenberg for mayor, and see who is supporting the school board candidates before voting for them. We have traditionally had school boards that ignore the public and think academia should run itself without rules or restrictions.

  2. This isn’t and has never been about Withycombe. She is clearly intelligent and engaged with the community. It is about the PROCESS and the lack of transparency involved here and the TONE DEAF comments from the majority of the council members. And people criticizing the criticism clearly don’t understand that this is what community looks like (one of their favorite chants that they clearly apply selectively).

    It is such hypocrisy for the usual small group of self-righteous know-it-alls to condescend to any and all who question or criticize.

    Lastly, basically “gifting” this position to a White woman of privilege seems grossly as odds with our community’s alleged commitment to diversity and inclusion but most of all EQUITY.

    • I just heard this news about this new city manager and am so not surprised by the total lack of transparency. I was out of town most of December. This lack, has been going on within Maplewood for DECADES. It’s ALWAYS been a “good ‘ol Boys club”. I had no idea the previous CM resigned until the end of November.
      This new CM is the ABSOLUTE WORST choice, in my humble opinion. Expect more hidden agendas from her as she is one who helped to hide the real details of the Proposition to all of the “woke” changes that have transpired at the school district. She has her own, personal agenda and that, again in my humble opinion, never bodes well for the taxpaying citizens.
      Add to that, her total lack of experience in this arena, it’s going to be interesting what all transpires in the coming year. I foresee higher taxes and a host of other, more “woke” DEI crap to infiltrate our community. Yes- I am totally against the DEI nonsense because rather than true Equality-which there should be no question of-it only instills more divisiveness and “inclusion” of “some” – the minority of a small percentage of folks, who will never be, the majority-no matter how hard they try to shove their ideologies down our throats.

  3. Amber will certainly have a steep learning curve with her new job but a new hire from outside would have a big learning curve also in getting to know the people and the community, from scratch. Amber is way ahead on that score and I wish her well. Let’s see how she does before criticizing.

    And I agree with Barry Greenberg that her starting salary should take into consideration her lack of experience.

  4. I love that the council and the mayor got up on a high horse at the beginning of the meeting, talking about incivility and how everyone is nuts to think there is something amiss here. And then, everyone in the room who spoke basically told them to reconsider this decision or at least slow the process. And the council decided to ignore the citizens. The mayor and the council do not care what their constituents think. They think they are better than us. That they know better than us. If they wonder why people aren’t calling them, aren’t showing up to meetings, this is why. They’ve seen the futility before and this is just another example.

    • There certainly is a disconnect between “Your input is what we desire” then ignoring the input to vote on a decision that had obviously already been made. We should all empathize with our city representatives being not politicians, but our neighbors. While there have been a lot of legitimate questions raised, the ad hominem attacks and insults that have been leveled on social media over the past week are unfair, unnecessary and unhelpful. I suspect there was a “rallying” effect at the meeting last night as a result of the social media backlash, but the council unfortunately rallied around themselves and the mayor rather than the community. I heard reasonable citizens pleading with the council to pause to consider whether their process represented good governance, but they refused this easy off-ramp because again, they had already made the decision.

Comments are closed.