El Paso City Manager Joyce Wilson turns down Florida job over money; Leeser also asked her to stay

EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Manager Joyce Wilson has declined Lee County, Florida's job offer to become the county's new manager and withdrawn her name from consideration.

WZVN-TV, the ABC affiliate in Fort Myers, reported Tuesday morning that it came down to Wilson not getting enough money in the negotiations.

Wilson asked for $225,000 a year plus $25,000 deferred compensation. The two sides could not agree on salary and a severance package. Lee County board chairman Cecil Pendergrass told the ABC affiliate there would be no golden parachutes and he only wanted to give Wilson $185,000.

Pendergrass also said Wilson wanted $650 a month for a car and three months housing while he countered with $500 a month for a car and no housing.

Wilson reportedly told Lee County commissioners she was not interested in the job three times before she was chosen as the No. 1 choice.

El Paso Mayor-Elect Oscar Leeser released the following statement:

"Earlier today City Manager Wilson advised City officials that she contacted the Lee County Chairman earlier this morning to let him know that she was ceasing negotiations and declining the job offer.  

"Over the past two days as Mayor elect, I have met with Ms. Wilson for several hours and have asked her to stay on board to assist with the transition of the new council. I felt it was only appropriate to have the City Manager see the City's critical projects through to a successful conclusion.

"I want the public to know that I am staying true to my word that I was not going to rush through things; which is why I feel it is best for City Manager to stay through the end of her contract. Ms. Wilson has committed to work collaboratively to allow for a smooth transition for her replacement.   Her decision to stay will allow the incoming Council and I to do a proper national and local search for our next City Manager. "

Pendergrass told WZVN, "The whole time I believe she was in El Paso in negotiations to get an increase there.  I was very blunt I won't get in a bidding war to get someone to come here.  So I'm looking forward to negotiations with our next candidate."

Wilson's email to Pendergrass at 5:34 a.m. Tuesday states, "Commissioner Pendergrass, after careful consideration I have decided to stop negotiations and withdraw from consideration for the Lee County position. Since negotiations were relatively far apart after Friday and the outcome uncertain, I have been urged to reconsider leaving El Paso by the newly-elected Mayor and other members of City Council, along with leaders in the business community. There are several major projects now underway and I would like to be able to see them through to closure if possible. Even though the Lee County position is attractive and certainly the community would be a great place to live and work, the option to remain here and finish out my public sector career without relocating is equally attractive and certainly less disruptive. I apologize for the back and forth on this but I sincerely believe this is the right decision for me personally. I wish you the very best for the County and your pursuits for a new leader. I am happy to visit with you personally by phone regarding this decision, but felt it important to submit it formally in writing prior to the Commission meeting today to avoid the discussion about salary
requirements and additional negotiations."

Lee County commissioners voted 5-0 on June 11 to enter into negotiations with Wilson for the county manager job. This was a week after the commissioners picked Wilson as their consensus No. 1 choice to become their county manager after interviewing five candidates.

Lee County's spokeswoman said Wilson was the No. 1 pick for four of the five commissioners after interviewing her. Roger Desjarlais is their No. 2 choice.

Seventy people had applied for the job since it was posted in late March.

The Lee County website does not state how much the county manager would be paid other than to state "the salary range is open and dependent upon qualifications, with a competitive benefits package. The starting salary will be based upon the knowledge and experience of the individual selected."

The last Lee County county manager had a salary of $170,000 a year. Wilson currently earns about $240,000 as city manager.

Wilson was hired as El Paso's first city manager in 2004 after a charter amendment vote to create a city manager position to run the city along with City Council. Her contract ends on Sept. 30, 2014.

Wilson has been selected as the state's Top Public Works Leader for 2013 by the Texas Chapter of the American Public Works Association (TPWA). The recognition honors individuals for excellence in their career-long achievements, expertise, service and dedication to improving the quality of life in the communities they serve.

Wilson's resume states she is a "Nationally recognized leader with over 25 years of extensive local government management experience at senior management and executive levels. Experience working in demographically diverse areas and bi-national settings. Specific areas of expertise include exemplary fiscal management and high-performance, customer-focused service delivery, community capacity building, internal and external communications, economic development and community revitalization. Demonstrated oversight of significant infrastructure investments in rapid growth communities, as well as those experiencing substantial economic decline."

Mayor John Cook declined in April to give Wilson another evaluation under the current City Council. Wilson's last evaluation was released in mid-December and made mention of items that she needed to work on.

Lee County has about 2,300 employees and an Fiscal Year 2012/2013 countywide budget of $1.76 billion, including both reserves and a General Fund operating budget of $457 million. Since the FY2007-08 budget, the County has had an overall reduction of 14 percent in staff and a $650 million reduction in the budget. The Lee County website states the county is historically fiscally conservative.

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