CHAMPAIGN — With the unanimous support of the city council on Tuesday night — but not a unanimous vote — officials approved Assistant City Manager Dorothy David's contract to become Champaign's next chief administrator.
The 8-1 vote made David's appointment official, and she will replace City Manager Steve Carter when he retires on March 29. Council members said it was clear she was the best choice for the job even though city officials never sought applications from non-city employees.
"Dorothy has worked for the city of Champaign for 18 years," said council member Tom Bruno. "We know her well, and she knows us well. She knows the current council; she knows those of you out in the audience; she knows the community."
Bruno said David gives him "a very high degree of comfort level" that no outsider could replicate.
"We don't have to explain to her the significant events that have shaped our history over the past 20 years," Bruno said.
David thanked the city council and said she was humbled to get its support.
"Your confidence in me means a great deal, and I can't express to you enough how committed I am to do everything in my power to do this job well," David said.
She said Champaign has been her home, and she understands that everything the city council not only affects her job, but it also affects her personal life.
"It affects my children and my neighbors and my friends," David said.
The lone dissenting vote came from Deborah Frank Feinen, who said David is "the perfect choice" for the job. But Feinen has a philosophical problem with David's contract.
That problem, Feinen said, is contained in Section 4, which provides that David would continue to receive up to 52 weeks of pay and benefits if she were terminated "without cause."
"I understand that being a city manager is a huge risk, and you can get a completely crazy council that would terminate you for no reason, and that you should be protected," Feinen said.
But Feinen, a former Champaign County Board member, said she was there when the board had to fire a county official. That official was under a similar contract to David's, and taxpayers paid nearly a full year's salary to that person after being terminated.
"Because of that history for me, I just can't support it," Feinen said.
But that does not affect her enthusiasm for David's hiring, she said.
"I have no reason to believe that Section 4 will ever come to pass," Feinen said.
David will make a base salary of $173,000, which is about $5,000 less than Carter's current base salary. Carter will be retiring after 28 years as Champaign city manager.
David was chosen for the job after city officials opened the application process only to city employees for one week. They had planned to accept external applications, but left themselves the option of closing their search if they were satisfied with the internal applications.
David was the lone internal applicant, and the city council ended its search.
City council members also chose to forgo hiring a potentially expensive search firm to recruit job candidates. Mayor Don Gerard said that was the right choice.
"I would like to commend this council on really cutting to the chase, hiring the best person," Gerard said.