Facing dissent, Maplewood council appoints new city manager

In the face of public criticism and requests to postpone the decision, the Maplewood City Council voted 5-1 to hire Amber Withycombe as the new city manager on Tuesday. Withycombe, who lacks any prior experience in city management, is set to start her new position on Jan. 4.

Withycombe’s appointment was met with applause from the audience, and she expressed confidence in her abilities despite her lack of experience in city management. However, some residents expressed concerns about the hiring process, claiming that it lacked transparency and showed favoritism. The council meeting, attended by around 75 people, saw 11 speakers expressing their reservations about hiring Withycombe. Maplewood Mayor Nikylan Knapper abstained from voting on Withycombe’s appointment, and Councilwoman Chasity Maddox cast the only vote against hiring her.

The need for a new city manager arose following the abrupt departure of Michael Reese from the position in late September. Reese’s departure was reportedly due to conflicts with Mayor Knapper, which led to a separation agreement that saw the city paying Reese $131,000 on Oct. 3.

Withycombe’s lack of experience in city management has sparked concerns among the community, given the importance of the role. However, Withycombe emphasized her past employment at tax-supported institutions and her current roles on the Maplewood-Richmond Heights school board and the city’s Plan and Zoning Commission as qualifications for the position.

The controversy surrounding Withycombe’s appointment brings attention to the need for transparency and accountability in the hiring process of public office roles. It also highlights the importance of considering relevant experience when appointing candidates to key administrative positions within municipalities.

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