UPDATE: Watkins to retire; colleagues, acquaintances react

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 | 1:55 p.m. CDT; updated 10:02 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This article has been changed to add reactions from Columbia Public Communications Director Toni Messina and Assistant City Manager Paula Hertwig-Hopkins.

COLUMBIA — Columbia City Manager Bill Watkins announced his plan to retire in five months at a news conference Tuesday morning.

Watkins, 57, told the City Council on Monday he planned to retire at the March 7, 2011, council meeting.

Here's what some of the folks who have worked with Watkins over the years have to say about the announcement:

Paul Sturtz, First Ward councilman

"It's not too surprising. I think Bill more or less has been sending signals in the last six months to a year. I think we all had differences from time to time, but Bill is a very civil and reasonable fellow, and he has a tremendous grasp on the city's operations and finances, and the very complex organism that city government is."

Jason Thornhill, Second Ward councilman

"I've enjoyed working with (Bill) Watkins. He's a genuinely nice person. I'm sad to see him go."

Gary Kespohl, Third Ward councilman

"He explained his reasons were both personal and business, and I, quite frankly, have enjoyed working with Bill. I understand why he's leaving."

Laura Nauser, Fifth Ward councilwoman

"I'll miss his ties. He always has a funny tie. I wish him and his wife all the best. Kathy's a lovely woman... They're very nice people, and I wish them all the happiness and success they can have."

Darwin Hindman, former mayor

"I was disappointed. I think Bill has done an outstanding job as city manager. The city was lucky to have him ... He understood Columbia, and he did a very good job."

Mike Brooks, REDI president

"(I'm) disappointed to see him go. I hate to see him retire ... He's a great, great individual that has been very supportive of what we're doing at REDI."

Ray Beck, former city manager

"Rather new information. Personally, I think Watkins did an excellent job in his time as city manager. It's a challenging job."

Karl Skala, former Third Ward councilman

"I had anticipated this. Bill is a very accomplished fellow, and I liked him personally."

Pat Zenner, city planner

"It'll be a loss to the city. It's been a pleasure to work with Bill. He has always been open to planning, and we obviously wish him the best."

Don Laird, Columbia Chamber of Commerce president

"He's always been very approachable and, even though I didn't agree with him all the time, he's done what's best for the city."

Jerry Wade, former Fourth Ward councilman

"I think we are losing an exceptional city manager. He understands the issues, he can look at issues from different perspectives. I value my time with him."

Toni Messina, public communications director

"I'm disappointed. I think Bill has been a great boss and a really good city manager. As we always do in the work world, we'll just experience a transition, and we're hoping for someone who is comparable in stature to Bill.

"He has such a deep knowledge base about the community. I could be pretty sure I would learn something whenever I went to him, either about history of a situation or about what went into making a policy.

"He's also got a great sense of humor. Anybody who works in the public sector has to have a great sense of humor."

Paula Hertwig-Hopkins, assistant city manager

"I'm really sad to see Bill go. Bill has done a fantastic job for the city, for the community, for the mayor and council... He is a very professional manager. He will leave his mark on a lot of accomplishments he has done for the city. There are big shoes to fill."

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Toni Messina October 6, 2010 | 3:20 p.m.

In this morning's print edition, I saw a timeline of several of the City Manager's actions after being appointed in 2006. One statement noted that he gave all City employees a raise. As with all compensation matters, the City Manager proposes things like raises in the City budget, and the City Council makes the final decision when it approves or amends the budget. I thought the statement implied that he arbitrarily gave out raises...not the case.

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