City Manager to Leave in December


Bryan Rubin, Photo Editor

City Manager Eric Norenberg discusses plans for Oberlin’s Underground Railroad Museum with the proj- ect’s implementation team at a meeting on Wednesday. Norenberg recently announced plans to leave Oberlin in December for a new city management position.

Louis Krauss, News Editor

After eight years on the job, Eric Norenberg is preparing to leave his position as city manager. Norenberg recently received a similar managerial position in a city that will be announced publicly on Monday.

Norenberg informed City Council of his plans this past week, prompting the Council to hold its first meeting about finding an interim manager. Norenberg plans to continue as Oberlin’s city manager until Dec. 23. While he declined to specify the town, Norenberg said he’s excited to lend his expertise to a location that offers new potential.“It’s a community that has great opportunity for me to do some different things as city manager,” Norenberg said. “So for me, professionally, as well as my family, it felt like a really good decision.”

But while Norenberg said the new opportunities were his main reason for leaving, past disagreements between him and City Council suggest otherwise. This past January, four of Oberlin’s seven Council members, Brian Burgess, Elizabeth Meadows, Sharon Pearson and Kristen Peterson, signed a letter asking for Norenberg’s resignation, citing issues with his leadership style and lack of communication with the Council.

One of those who called for his resignation was Council member Burgess, who said he didn’t agree with how Norenberg was running Oberlin.“We didn’t agree with the direction the city was going, and we thought it would be best if he would resign,” Burgess said. Burgess and Norenberg clashed this past August when Norenberg permitted a natural gas company to survey Oberlin for building the NEXUS pipeline after the Council voted not to allow its construction.

“When we came back for the next Council meeting, we learned that he had written a letter to the pipeline company giving permission to survey the land,” Burgess said. “So we tell him we don’t want the pipeline, and then he goes behind our back and authorizes the survey. It didn’t make me very happy.”

Following the letter, Norenberg and City Council had seven private meetings to address the concerns, which Norenberg said were helpful in making improvements throughout 2015. “Since that letter, I think things have been flowing much more smoothly between City Council and myself, so it didn’t really affect my decision to leave,” Norenberg said. “We haven’t quite met the mark of having individual meetings with Council members once a month, but we’re getting better.”

Burgess agreed, saying the letter ultimately had a positive impact on city government. “It let him know the majority of City Council was dissatisfied with the direction he was taking Oberlin, and we made an agreement on 11 things he would try to fix in 2015, which he did his best to accomplish,” Burgess said.

The 11 goals that City Council set forth included hiring new fire and police chiefs, completing fire prevention inspections at all city-owned buildings and performing maintenance at Hamilton Recreation Complex’s soccer and baseball fields. Fairchild-Soucy, who, along with Council president Scott Broadwell and Council member Ron Rimbert, did not support the letter, said she was very confused about why the other four City Council members decided to write the letter.

“The letter didn’t specify much, and there was a lot of vagueness like saying he wasn’t a good communicator or he didn’t have a strategic plan, but that wasn’t my experience,” Fairchild-Soucy said.

Fairchild-Soucy, Broadwell and Rimbert gave Norenberg high evaluations for 2014.

“I’m deeply disappointed to see him go; he’s been an outstanding city manager,” Fairchild-Soucy said. “We had a glitch this year after six years of really high evaluations, but generally he’s done a great job as city manager.”

Soucy spoke highly Norenberg’s many accomplishments since 2007, such as creating Oberlin’s Climate Action Plan, supporting the construction of the Kohl Building and the Lewis Gateway Center and building stronger ties with the College.