HENDERSON — The Henderson City Council voted unanimously Thursday to accept the resignation of City Manager Mike Barrow pending execution of a settlement agreement.
Barrow, a city employee since 2000, has been city manager since May 2010.
The reason for his resignation remained unclear Thursday evening. It was announced at a special meeting called to “deliberate the evaluation, discipline or possible dismissal of the city manager and the possible appointment of an interim city manager,” according to the agenda.
Barrow declined to comment Thursday about his resignation.
Mayor Pat Brack said she thought Barrow had been doing a good job, but that she must abide by the council’s vote. She was a council member when he was promoted to city manager and voted in favor of the move.
Other members of the council declined to comment on specifics leading to non-renewal of his contract and the possibility of dismissal.
The vote to accept Barrow’s resignation came after an hour-long closed session. Prior to adjourning into closed session, two public commenters spoke in favor of him continuing as city manager.
Andy Vinson, committee chairman for Leadership Henderson and Rusk County’s representative to the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority, said Barrow had always gone out of his way to be helpful.
“I would hate to see a change in management at this time,” Vinson said.
Former Mayor Buzz Fullen also spoke in support.
“I worked closely with him and never had a problem, I was never left out of the loop,” Fullen said. “I feel in my heart that he’s being micromanaged. This is a sad day and a sad situation.”
Fullen proposed the council discuss their problems with Barrow in open session, rather than adjourning to a closed session.
Mayor Pat Brack asked City Attorney David Brown if the council was required to discuss personnel matters behind closed doors.
Brown said the council could do so if it wished, and must do so if the employee requested it, but was not obligated to enter a closed session if discussing the matters in an open forum was acceptable to the council and the employee.
Brack requested the council table the proposed evaluation of Barrow until after the November election so any newly elected members would have a say in the city manager selection. However, no council members made a motion regarding her request.
Councilman Reggie Weatherton moved that the council adjourn into executive session. Council members Scott Lee and Thomas Ward voted in favor of the motion, with council members Melissa Morton and Steve Higginbotham voting against it.
The council emerged from executive session to accept Barrow’s resignation. Members also voted unanimously to appoint Fire Chief Rusty Chote as interim city manager.
Higginbotham called the council’s acceptance of Barrow’s resignation a fair and equitable solution for both sides.
Weatherton said that because Barrow had resigned, he didn’t wish to go into specifics about the problems the council had with him.
“He’s resigned and I’m satisfied with that option,” Weatherton said.
Brack said that while Barrow had done a good job handling his responsibilities, he sometimes didn’t come across as very personable, which could be why some members of the council were displeased with him.
“I think he’s been terrific,” Brack said. “It’s not an easy job. You have a lot of different people to satisfy; it’s kind of like being a preacher.”