Chula Vista Deputy City Manager Leah Browder has landed her dream job in Poway, courtesy of the mysteriously abrupt resignation of that city's public works director.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported last Friday that Browder, a Poway native who heads up Chula Vista's animal shelter, Nature Center and other departments, will start her new gig as public works director in June. Staff writer Tanya Sierra notes the move isn't exactly a lateral one: The Poway position's compensation range is $128,492 to $156,182 a year, while Browder now earns $167,256 with Chula Vista.
But, she tells Sierra: “To have my dream job open up in my hometown, where jobs like that open up every 20 years, I couldn't pass up the opportunity.”
Actually, if recent history is any indication, the job of Poway public works director seems to open up with alarming frequency. Browder's hire fills a vacancy created in January by the sudden resignation—sudden, as in “effective immediately”—of Public Works Director Kevin Haupt. Haupt himself held the title for all of 17 months after replacing longtime Poway Public Works Director Jim Howell, who retired in August 2007 after 37 years on the job.
Which begs the question: Just why did Haupt, a Poway operations manager prior to his promotion, up and quit a six-figure managerial position amid a terrible recession and without advance notice?
According to a city news release issued at the time, Haupt resigned in January to “pursue other employment opportunities.” On Monday, Poway City Manager Rod Gould told CityBeat that Haupt “resigned for personal reasons.”
Asked whether he could elaborate further, given the strangeness of a city executive responsible for 92 employees and a $36 million budget walking away on a dime, Gould said, “I'm not at liberty to talk any further about it.”
Tony Winney, a senior management analyst for the city of Poway, was a little more forthcoming about Haupt's departure, but only a little. Asked why Haupt left, he said: “That's a good question.
“The official line is [Haupt's resignation] was a mutually agreed-upon separation,” Winney says. “The way it's being viewed is as a human-resources issue.”
Browder told CityBeat that she's aware of the short tenure of her Poway predecessor but isn't concerned about it. “I did find it surprising also because I'm used to seeing folks in Poway being there for lots and lots of years,” she says.
“It's something that I looked at in talking to the folks in Poway, and I feel very comfortable about the situation and very confident that I can add to the strength of their team.”
The U-T's Sierra also noted in her May 1 story that Browder's oversight of the Chula Vista animal shelter coincided with the release of two reports citing problems at the facility. One report, issued in January by a city-contracted veterinarian, criticized the shelter for a high euthanasia rate, lack of accountability and unsanitary conditions.