Fairfield City Council expected to bump stipend for acting city manager

Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett is also serving as acting city manager since the resignation of the previous city manager. NICK GRAHAM  / STAFF
Caption
Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett is also serving as acting city manager since the resignation of the previous city manager. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Fire Chief Don Bennett has been leading the fire department and city administration since Dec. 11

Fairfield City Council agreed in December to pay Fire Chief Don Bennett $2,000 per month extra to not only lead the fire department but also the city administration as an acting city manager.

Bennett was named acting city manager when former city manager Mark Wendling resigned on Dec. 11. It was first believed the role would last for a few months, as officials thought replacing Wendling would take about six months.

After City Council last month decided to pause the search for a second time this year, so it appears Bennett could be acting city manager at least until mid-spring 2022.

After reviewing the merits of 11 of the 26 city manager applicants in an August executive session, the council wanted to let the incoming council candidates have a say. But that can’t happen until the unopposed council candidates are installed at the end of the year.

ExploreFairfield’s acting city manager sees new role as ‘a period of rejuvenation’ in long career

Council is expected today to more than double his stipend to $4,269 per month, which equates to $51,228 annually, according to Fairfield Finance Director Jake Burton. He is proposing council retroactively pay Bennett $9,076 for his work from June to September, and then begin his new stipend amount effective on Oct. 1 until his acting city manager duties conclude.

As fire chief, Bennett is paid $94,369 annually. Wendling’s salary when he left was $163,991 a year.

In an interview with the Journal-News in February 2021, Bennett called the acting role “a period of rejuvenation” in his nearly 37 1/2 years with the city as he’s learned new internal workings of the city’s administration.

Not soon after starting the search began, City Council took a multi-month “pause” that ended in April when the majority of the council decided in May to hire an executive search firm. The preferred candidate of many on City Council left this summer for the Butler County assistant administrator position, and as of the end of August, the council will wait until the start of 2022 to resume the city manager search.


FAIRFIELD CITY MANAGER SEARCH TIMELINE

Dec. 11, 2020: Fairfield City Manager Mark Wendling resigns his position. Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett named acting city manager while still serving as fire chief.

ExploreFormer Fairfield city manager: ‘It’s time for me to seek my next adventure’
ExploreSeparation agreement adds details to Fairfield city manager’s resignation

Jan. 19, 2021: City Council has its first discussion on a national search for the next city manager.

April 26, 2021: City Council end a “pause” in the city manager search.

ExploreFairfield ending pause in new city manager search as many are intrigued by internal candidate

May 17, 2021: City Council hires Cincinnati-based executive search firm, though some wanted to interview then-assistant city manager Scott Timmer.

ExploreFairfield chooses Cincinnati firm to help find next city manager

July 2021: Top city manager candidate Scott Timmer leaves Fairfield, hired by Butler County to be assistant administrator

ExploreFairfield again searching for top two positions after departure of No. 2

Aug. 16, 2021: 26 people apply to be Fairfield’s next city manager and City Council to debate 11 of those candidates.

Explore26 have applied to be Fairfield’s new city manager: Where the search stands
ExploreFairfield City Council to debate merits of 11 city manager candidates today

Aug. 18, 2021: City Council elects to “pause” the city manager search again until the unopposed council candidates are installed and can provide input in the process.

ExploreFairfield pauses city manager search after more than 8 months