One of the most polarizing figures in Parker’s history believes he is on his way out the door.
Frank Jaeger, the Parker Water and Sanitation District’s general manager for 31 years, announced his plans to retire at the end of his contract in December, but some of the newly elected directors proposed immediately terminating his contract, just hours after they were sworn in May 17.
However, following a discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of losing the person with the most extensive knowledge of the water district’s history and operations, the board members decided to rescind the resolution to fire Jaeger.
A special executive session, which enables the board to privately discuss sensitive matters, is tentatively scheduled for May 21. Jaeger, who was reached at his office by phone a day after the May 17 meeting, believes the board will likely terminate his contract.
Recent media coverage has provided a platform for critics who have blasted the district’s spending, Jaeger said, likely swaying the vote. He has denied allegations of improper handling of district funds.
Bill Wasserman, who was among the three board directors elected May 8, said the people of Parker voted for a change in leadership, and the new decision-makers took immediate action during their first meeting. They approved a series of resolutions designed to drastically reduce management’s powers, including taking away the managers’ ability to sign checks and enter into agreements with lobbyists and consultants.
But Wasserman acknowledged that the board might have acted too hastily with the proposal to terminate Jaeger's contract. He commended what he calls Jaeger’s “far-sighted” decision to build Rueter-Hess Reservoir, but says the project got too costly and out of control.
Jaeger, who makes no apologies for his blunt manner of speaking, said he has been unfairly targeted by the new board, the media and members of the public, despite what he sees as 31 years of devotion to “doing what’s best for our customers.”
Dozens of people attended the May 17 meeting, including Parker Water and Sanitation District employees, who were curious about what would happen to the man who has served as their general manager and been with the district longer than anyone else. Wasserman said it was “understandable” that they might be concerned and said they have no reason to fear losing their jobs.
“The backbone of Parker water’s success is the employees,” he said. “They go out and do their job. They don’t get involved in politics or those kinds of things.”
Wasserman says the five-member board is laying the groundwork for a “power shift” away from the usual way of doing business. He said the publicly elected body, not the top managers, should control the decision-making because it is they who answer to the people.
Jaeger said he was rebuffed by the board after making verbal and written offerings for a smooth transition to a new general manager. Wasserman said the board has not started a search for a new general manager.