Casper City Manager V.H. McDonald will retire on June 1, the city announced Thursday. The decision comes two days after members of the City Council called for an investigation into problems at the police department and complaints that city management did not adequately address the issues.
Mayor Kenyne Humphrey was expected to meet with McDonald on Thursday morning to discuss options for responding to the police issues. She did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment Thursday afternoon.
McDonald also did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment.
McDonald, who’s served as city manager since November 2015, announced his retirement in a letter presented to the City Council’s leaders. His resignation comes one day after Casper City Council member Todd Murphy also stated he would leave his post, effective Monday. Murphy cited personal reasons for his departure.
The council will begin recruiting a new city manager immediately, the city said in an announcement. Assistant City Manager Liz Becher will serve as interim city manager during the transition.
McDonald began working in Casper in early 1999. He spent much of the next decade serving former Casper City Manager Tom Forslund, now director of the Wyoming Health Department.
Forslund told the Star-Tribune last year that he was surprised McDonald went for the city’s top job. While Forslund said he knew McDonald was qualified, the longtime city employee’s quiet personality was an asset for his past jobs as Casper’s administrative services director and later as assistant city manager. In McDonald’s relatively short tenure as city manager, he oversaw plans to revitalize downtown and build a new public plaza in time for the August eclipse. His term came after his predecessor, John Patterson, became embroiled in legal and personal battles with community members and a former city council member. Patterson served as city manager for four years. The litigation continues.
Some hoped McDonald would bring calm to city government after the turmoil of Patterson’s four years as city manager.
“We will probably still be picking up and sweeping up from our previous city manager for quite awhile,” Rep. Pat Sweeney, R-Casper, told the Star-Tribune in April 2016. “V.H., I think in this downturn economy, will help steer us in the right direction, be able to keep us on a good footing to direct those efforts.”
While downtown Casper has enjoyed an upswing, McDonald’s tenure hasn’t been free of controversy. Casper Fire Chief Kenneth King announced his retirement after a Star-Tribune investigation found he’d emailed a subordinate asking him to get rid of video evidence shot during the Cole Creek Fire, which destroyed 14 homes in October 2015.
King said the email was a joke.
McDonald became city manager at the beginning of Wyoming’s oil and gas bust, which hit Casper particularly hard. The city’s budget was cut by nearly 40 percent, and McDonald worked on a plan to draw down the city’s reserves over the next decade. The council offered 53 employees early retirement packages in mid-2016 and suspended capital projects. McDonald prioritized maintaining services.
The downturn continued into 2017. Sales tax numbers were more than $400,000 below projections for the fiscal year in January. McDonald requested earlier this year that the City Council move up its annual budget session by about six weeks, though he said it was unrelated to the drop in sales tax.
The fiscal year ends in June. The Star-Tribune reported in January that the draft budget would likely be presented to council in April and finalized in early May.
Forslund served as Casper’s city manager for 22 years before Patterson assumed the helm.