After serving nineteen months as East Palo Alto's City Manager, ML Gordon told the council members, who had hired him, that he had made a decision that was “challenging for [him]... to announce to the council and to the community.” He, then, stated that, while he had “thoroughly enjoyed every single minute” of his job, he would be retiring from his current position.
Gordon made his retirement announcement at a special city council meeting that was held on Monday, January 30. There were four council members present for the announcement: Mayor Laura Martinez, Vice Mayor Ruben Abrica, and Council members Peter Evans and Carlos Romero. Council member David Woods was absent and few if any community members were present at the meeting.
Gordon said that his retirement would be effective the last week of February, which ends on March 3, and he stated emphatically that he would work until the last day.
While not giving any specific reasons for his decision to retire, Gordon said, “This has not been taken lightly by me. I have battled whether or not this is something I have to do. But, it is something I have to do, and I just hope that the council and the community understand.... Some things are out of our control.”
Gordon stated that he had “grown to become extremely close to a number of residents in this community and to each council member” and he had “much respect” for all five council members. He pointed out that he had accomplished some of the tasks that he had been given to do as the city manager, but he had not accomplished others. Nevertheless, he emphasized that he would continue to be the city manager until he retired.
“There is absolutely nothing that I have enjoyed more in my career in 37 years of public service than this task of leading this organization.... I want to say, 'Thank you.' I want to say, 'Thank you' to the council individually and collectively, and I want to say, 'Thank you' to the citizens of this great city.”
Since there are two more regularly scheduled East Palo Alto City Council meetings in February, Gordon volunteered to come back to the next council meeting to present a proposed plan with options that would assist the council in its recruitment of an acting or interim city manager.
“We will do everything we can do to make sure that we leave things in the trusting hand of an interim, an acting or your permanently appointed next city manager,” he said.
At the end of his announcement, Gordon stated, “This is very emotional for me, so I am going to stop talking. I really do appreciate everything you've done for me and the citizens.
Romero was the first to respond to Gordon's announcement. “I certainly would not want the record to reflect that none of us said anything about your leaving. We were told individually over the past week that you would be leaving. There will be plenty of time over the next month to praise all of your virtues and your character and, certainly, accolades of praise will be heaped on you. But, I personally will miss you and there will be more than one time I'll be saying this, 'It's a pleasure to work with you.' I'm looking forward to working with you the next month. I'm sure you will work us to the bone,” Romero said.
In speaking next, Martinez said, “We don't want to see you go. But, we're so very grateful for your service to the city of East Palo Alto and we do hope to see you again, soon. You're always welcome to come back to visit,” Martinez said.
As the last council member to speak, Abrica told Gordon, “I think you were the right person at the right time for our city and its continuing development and we're going to miss you.... I think you created some momentum and some initiatives from the city manager's role and, even beyond that, there 's been a good fit....I think you've been very good at working with all of us and listening to us and taking seriously what we said we'd like to see done and that's all. I really appreciate your work. Thank you.”
Council member Evans refrained from speaking, and there were no speakers for the community forum session, which is set aside for members of the public to express their views.
After a few jovial remarks shared between Gordon and the three council members who had addressed him, the special council meeting was adjourned. The entire meeting was over in 15 minutes, with Gordon's announcement and the council members' responses taking 10 of those minutes.
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