Watertown city manager decides not to renew contract amid council tensions

Ken Mix is not renewing his city manager contract
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 5:37 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The city of Watertown has less than 90 days to find a new city manager after current city manager Ken Mix has decided to not renew his contract.

After an executive session that lasted more than an hour Monday night, Watertown city council returned to council chambers and announced that Mix is not renewing his contract.

“He unfortunately came to a final decision today that he is not interested in renewing his contract for the city,” Mayor Jeff Smith said.

In a letter addressed to the council, Mix says he is unwilling to continue as city manager.

Mix says some tensions between council members led to the decision.

He wouldn’t comment on specifics, but Smith says it’s pretty apparent.

“Nobody knows what they are doing except him,” Smith said. “It affects Ken. Ken wants to run the city, but he is inundated with these micromanaging emails.”

Smith was referring to council member Cliff Olney. The two have been butting heads since Olney joined the council this year.

When asked about Smith’s comments, Olney says the mayor has repeatedly told Mix to not answer or follow up with requests Olney has made because he doesn’t have to.

Olney said during the meeting that he doesn’t want to see Mix go.

“The issue is not between you and me,” Olney told Mix. “It’s between myself and the mayor and it has been since I got here on council.”

Mix came out of retirement to become interim city manager in January 2020, taking on the official role later that year and helping the city through the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says he wouldn’t change anything about his time in the role.

“I have no regrets,” Mix said. “We were able to get a lot done and I’m sure they will keep going, you know. Nobody is not replaceable, so they find somebody else, hopefully, and just keep moving on.”

The city will begin its search immediately for Mix’s replacement. His contract is set to expire on December 31.