Why Culbreth-Graft quit

Mon, Mar 22, 2010


Winston Churchill once said “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.”

In that context, Penny Culbreth-Graft’s sudden resignation becomes more understandable.

She had not, as some claim, lost the confidence of city council. She was not under siege. She doesn’t, as far as I know, have another lucrative position lined up.

But after 32 years of following the career track that brought her to Colorado Springs, she found herself in the kind of situation that many of us have experienced in the workplace.

What was once challenging and exciting had become exasperating and insoluble. Apparently transient difficulties had become permanent obstacles. And your bosses, once so reasonable and supportive, had become feckless and unpredictable.

You had loved going to work, and now you dreaded it. You woke up in the morning with a headache, your days were stressful and crazy, you slept badly. But you did your best, until one day you realized that, for your own sake, you needed to go.

Culbreth-Graft is, as one council member remarked, a consummate professional. If she was troubled by Tom Gallagher’s antic behavior, she never showed it. After all, every elected body is going to have at least one unpredictable renegade, one obstinate troublemaker.

But despite firm support from a substantial council majority, she may have been troubled by the lack of support from her ultimate bosses – the voters of Colorado Springs.

Culbreth-Graft might believe, as municipal administrators across the country might, that cities are best managed by a cadre of highly competent, experienced and well-paid professionals. Just as you don’t entrust highly complex organizations in the private sector to the least expensive hire, you don’t assume that running a city requires no more skill than being a reporter.

As she noted in her resignation letter, city workers can anticipate a grim future, one which may include yet more layoffs as well as possible pay cuts and reductions in benefits. That prospect doesn’t trouble city taxpayers. in fact, if the November elections are any indicator, a majority of voters are just fine with such cutbacks.

One can hardly blame her for taking Churchill’s position, and letting someone else preside over the dissolution of our municipal empire.

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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Like it'll matter ..... Says:

    >> you don’t assume that running a city requires no more skill than being a reporter.

    ……. whoa….. that’s not even THINLY veiled !

  2. John Whitten Says:

    Penny appears to be the victum of bad timing, and a ‘perfect storm’ of lousy economics and incompetent management. It would be hard to believe that the local voters (taxpayers) had much, if anything, to do with her decision.

    When you work for folks who can’t (or won’t) recognize conflicts of interest, think they are above the law, or don’t understand how basic decisions are made, this is what happens.

    Penny, and others like her, have sleepless nights and dread comming to work because this town’s ultimate management doesn’t get it.

    It will be interesting to see how the replacement search goes. No doubt, the ‘city manager’ national fraternity talks to each other. And who’d want to come here when there’s a real possibility the job gets eliminated in November?

    Where’s that strong mayor petition?

  3. No longer living in COS Says:

    Colorado Springs voters have refused to step up to the plate and pay for the things the city needs for the last 25 years. Not much chance that things will change now. If Mr. Whitten things the voters have nothing to do with the problems then maybe he and Doug Bruce can get together and straighten up the mess. It’s sad to see a city with so much potential continue to shoot itself in the foot.

  4. George Gurgon Says:

    Gee, things are tough all over. Anyone can do well in good times but when it is tough, like now, it takes a tough individual to get through it. I understand that Penny does not want to carry that load. So we get someone who can. Every city manager in the country is facing the same choice. Hazlehurst loves to blame every city problem on the citizenry not being willing to pay more for services in a down economy. Sorry, my budget took a hit and it is just reality that the city must also.

  5. FactFinder Says:

    Most governments in the United States, including our city, have engaged in a process of greedy acceleration of government salaries and benefits to unsustainable levels. A train wreck is coming over this. Just as General Motors was devastated by unreasonable pension/salary expectations, so Colo Spgs govt workers will reap what they sowed.

    It is obvious that real estate recoveries are many years into the future, probably decades. Wild govt pensions were funded from these hot real estate markets. It’s over. The death rattles will go on for years. PERA has destabilized from this plundering, and will fail over the next five years. Does she see it coming? Probably not. She didn’t see her house in California going down, but it did, and the California decline is far from over.

  6. Dave Hughes Says:

    Whitten says “… she appears to be a victim of lousy economics and incompetent management.”

    You left out one of the biggest ones – the actions of that anti-everything Doug Bruce – whose ‘initiatives’ – including the ‘rachet down’ effect on all suceeding budgets – makes it impossible to keep up city services, retain staff to do the work, and satisfy voters.

    Bruce is the most destructive force in Colorado Springs history. And he gets the voters whom Hazlehurst criticizes to follow him like sheep to the municipal slaughter. What does he care? He made his fortune in California, is a local slum lord, and doesn’t worry at all about the health of the local economy.

    Bruce is a Pariah.

  7. Jim2009 Says:

    Maybe she ran out of ideas, or maybe she’s a quitter. Either way, the thing we need right now is a mixture of fiscal responsibility and business minded creativity to spur economic growth.

    People who blame one man for our economic problems are those who whine that someone else is responsible for their own failures. We are a community; we can overcome what we face when we accept our own responsibility and we each take action for the betterment of our community.

    There never has been and never will be any other solution to our problems.

  8. Elizabeth Adams Says:

    She isn’t the first city employee to feel that way! In the “good old days” which were not that long ago, other higher ranking city employees were excited about the possibilities of what this beautiful place could become. They worked tirelessly to help have a strong workforce and what did they get – “we don’t understand what you do, you are paid too much and we don’t need you!” And yet, for others who had nothing more than a 9 to 5 mentality, they purchased cars, downpayments on homes and then ended up giving them huge exit deals. This is what turns voters off – they don’t see the hard workers they only look at the takers and figure it is coming directly out of their pocket – short sighted to say the least.

  9. Craig Says:

    Wow, just got back to town and find out the city finally caught a break. I figured it would be another golden parrachute package to get rid of a CM that fancies herself a city union rep. How hard can this job be. Get a staff to plan how you can spend every dime you get with no consiquences for when times get hard. Then stand in front of the council and deflect blame. 2 hundred grand a year and I throw in a hyphenated name to show I am top notch.