The Cambridge City Council passed a policy order at Monday’s meeting that would extend the city manager’s contract until June 30, 2013, to provide a transition period for the selection and preparation of a new city manager, a task the city has not taken on in over 30 years.
Current City Manager Robert W. Healy has served in the role since 1981, but, as he approaches his 70th birthday, has informed the Council that he plans to retire. Healy’s current contract expires in September.
“The reality is, there’s been no city manager hired in the city for 31 years, so no one on this council ever hired a city manager,” Healy said. “31 years I’ve led the city, and a 15-month period of planning for a transition was an important one.”
Cambridge uses a Plan E form of government, in which the City Council hires a city manager who is responsible for running the city.
But the extension of the contract was somewhat contentious among councillors, as Councillors Kenneth E. Reeves ’72, Craig A. Kelley, and Minka Y. vanBeuzekom voted against the policy order.
Kelley, who has never supported Healy in the position of city manager, disputed the claim that a 15-month transition was necessary.
“We transition a [U.S.] president in two and a half months,” Kelley said during the meeting. “That we need 15 months for the manager of Cambridge just seems unreasonable to me.”
Apart from concerns over the length of the transition period, Reeves said that he did not approve of some of Healy’s recent decisions. In particular, Reeves objected to Healy’s handling of a discrimination suit brought against the city.
“We just wasted millions of dollars pursuing a legal matter that we should have been out of no sooner than we got in,” Reeves said. “I think in this last term there have been some real missteps that have cost the citizens.”
Despite vocal opposition, the decision to extend the contract passed 6-3.
“The manager’s done a great job for a long time for the city, and this seemed like a good way to put a transition in motion,” Mayor Henrietta J. Davis, who supported the contract extension, said. “It also honors the work that he’s done for the city—we end up with a very strong local economy, and we’re going to give him a lot of the credit for that.”
—Staff writer Maya S. Jonas-Silver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.