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.