Former Fairfield city manager: ‘It’s time for me to seek my next adventure’

Fairfield’s now-former city manager said his decision to resign Friday evening had “been brewing for a while.”

Mark Wendling offered his resignation to Fairfield City Council in a special executive session meeting Friday evening, and the board accepted it after nearly 10 years of service to the city. Wendling didn’t offer a reason for his resignation other than “it’s just the right time.”

“It’s just time for me to seek my next adventure,” Wendling told the Journal-News on Friday evening. “I’ve really enjoyed my time with the city. I’ve always been proud of what I achieved there.”

His next step is unknown at the moment, he said.

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“I’m not really sure at this point,” Wendling said when asked what’s next. “It’ll take some time to think about it.”

The typical tenure of a city manager is three to six years, according to Villanova University.

Wendling is leaving the city after leading Fairfield toward new comprehensive and connectivity plans, and a general fund reserve balance, commonly known as a rainy day fund, of more than $8 million.

“I’ve got to see some things go through that were long-time goals,” he said. “I feel like I got to achieve a lot of my mission there.”

Wendling said he is most proud of his staff.

“That’s probably the thing I’m proudest of, the really phenomenal staff the city has,” he said.

In the past few years, Wendling has transformed the city’s executive staff by hiring a new police chief, assistant city manager and directors for the public works, parks and recreation, development services and finance departments.

Fairfield City Council members deferred comments to Mayor Steve Miller, though some said they appreciated Wendling’s professionalism and service to the city.

“I have the utmost respect for him as a professional and a person, and I sincerely wish him all the best,” said Councilwoman Leslie Besl.

“Mark is a very professional individual who did a great job for the city of Fairfield during the past 10 years,” said Councilman Terry Senger.

Wendling was hired as assistant city manager in 2011 with plans he would succeed former city manager Art Pizzano, who served in that role for close to two decades. Wendling was promoted in May 2015 to city manager, and as of May 2019 was earning $163,991 annually. Non-bargaining unit salaries were frozen at the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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“He’s done a good job and we wish him the best in all his future endeavors,” Miller said. “He’s a good guy, he’s a friend and wherever he goes he’ll do a great job. He’s a class act.”

Wendling was the city manager at the city of Silverton, Ohio for nearly eight years and city administrator for Independence, Kentucky for nearly two-and-a-half years.

Earlier this year, Wendling was recognized as the 2020 Distinguished Alumnus of Northern Kentucky University’s Master of Public Administration program.

Last year, Wendling was one of Emerging Local Government Leaders’ Traeger Award winners. The award recognizes individuals’ influence in and outside their community through professional associations, mentoring and writing. In 2017, he received the Ohio City/County Management Association’s Innovation in Local Government Award.

Miller said city council named Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett as acting city manager.

“I think council wanted to see Don Bennett (as acting city manager) because of his experience and his knowledge,” he said. “He’s a good fit until we hire somebody next year.”

Bennett has been with the city since April 1984 when he was hired as Fairfield’s first career fire chief.

Miller said the search will start next month.

”Fairfield is a great community and we’ll probably attract the cream of the crop,” he said. “We’ll find somebody good. This is an attractive place to be. It’s a great community and I think everything will work out.”

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