Monday, June 1, 2009

And End To An Interesting "Reign"

Darlene Burcham was city manager of Roanoke for a long time before I got to know her. Our paths rarely crossed--because I didn't cover City Council as the editor of a business publication--and I didn't get the feeling of warm fuzzies coming from her, in any case. I'd introduced myself shortly after she got here and she promptly forgot who I am, so I just ignored it.

Over the years, I've criticized and praised her work and have been baffled at her recent penchant for making decisions without citizen input--an invitation for rebellion in this country, this state and this city.

My wife went to work in the city manager's office nearly two years ago and during that time, I have come to know and like--a lot--the tall redhead, who has lost a lot of weight in the past year. I've taken to calling her "supermodel."

This evening, Roanoke City Council--as expected--set an end to her often tumulteous tenure in Roanoke with a "retirement" date of March 1, 20010. They'll need that much time to replace her with a quality hire, but they won't get another city manager who has such class in the face of diversity, regardless of what other traits the new city manager has.

Darlene (and she insists she is not "Ms. Burcham") has shown far more class in this than members of council have, but I don't suppose that's totally unexpected, since politicians don't generally roll over into that area.

I want to wish Darlene well. Hers has been an interesting reign, as The Roanoker Magazine might term it.

(Note: Here are some comments I've received from my Facebook post:

(Former City Councilman Bill Carder says, "I agree with you. Having worked with her I can tell you, she is not only a warm person who loves this city but is a real professional in every way. It will be like Bern Ewart: today's heel, tomorrows hero."

(Lisa Soltis says:"She's the best! Sad loss for us, I'm sorry to say."

(Kemper Fant: "I think we have been extremely fortunate to have someone like Burcham leading Roanoke over the past 10 years. I haven't agreed with all of her decisions and have strongly opposed a few, but she took the bull by the horns, got rid of the dead weight, and made this city her priority. She worked her butt off and we have made tremendous gains through her intellect, experience and guidance. I don't personally know her, but I trust the judgment of the competent folks I know who work or worked for the city, and who respect her despite not being in her inner circle. That speaks loudest of all. I'm going to trust council's decision but not without somewhat of a skeptical eye. I do think that managing this city by committee, which is essentially what a "strong city council" is, is a mistake. Roanoke City Council has failed to provide competent leadership on critical issues in the past. Autonomy is essential if they hire any talent."

(Julie Snowman of Lynchburg: "Guts, class and leadership are good traits. I wish her good luck."

(David Perry: "Having just moved here in 2007 (though a native) my first impression was that the city was well-run and provided a lot to its citizens. Careful what you wish for, City just might get it.")

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