Salida City Administrator Drew Nelson, who was hired in October 2018, turned in his resignation letter to the Salida City Council on May 26. A press release from Mayor Dan Shore’s office dated May 28 provided more details, including the fact that Nelson was giving the city two months notice, intending to leave “no later than August 1, 2023”.
It also appears that transition planning had begun as early as October 2022, when Christy Doon, who had previously been a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Manager for DOLA’s South Central Region, was hired as Assistant City Administrator, including leadership of the Human Resources function.
In a telephone interview with AVV, Shore, who had been on City Council at the time of Nelson’s hiring, praised his efforts. “When Drew came in, there was a lot of stuff that needed to be fixed. There was a lot of turmoil in the city government at the time.”
“Drew was the longest-running city administrator that we’ve had in this century,” Shore added. “I’m really grateful for the work he’s done and I don’t begrudge him the opportunity to move on – Salida doesn’t pay as well as a lot of other municipalities.”
Some of the turmoil that Shore referred to was institutional: Between June of 2016, when then-City Administrator Dara MacDonald was fired, and October 2018, when Nelson was hired, the city had gone through four interim administrators. It was grappling with finances in such poor shape that it was unable to complete its 2017 audit in a timely fashion, one of the first pressing problems that Nelson had to deal with after being hired.
However, Nelson also was dealing with some self-inflicted turmoil of a different sort: his hiring was dogged by controversy stemming from an arrest in January 2018, when he was City Administrator of Winter Park, on charges of domestic violence/felony menacing, reckless endangerment, and prohibited use of a weapon. (Nelson resigned as Winter Park City Administrator after the incident.) Even though the first two charges were dropped, the taint of a domestic violence charge stirred up a sizable segment of the Salida community, resulting in demands during City Council meetings for him to be fired, as well as a mediated public forum on his hiring process.
Nelson weathered that storm and passed his six-month probationary period in May 2019. He went on to preside over the stabilization of city staff as well as returning the city of Salida to financial health.
Shore said that Nelson’s latest performance review, which took place earlier this year, had been positive; and that a search for a new City Administrator would start after the City Council’s upcoming strategic retreat.
AVV has reached out to Nelson for comment, but as of press time had not received a response.