Awaiting word on whether fellow Casper City Council members supported her leadership, Mayor Kenyne Humphrey turned in her city-issued computer tablet and keys Tuesday night.
Humphrey says she never doubted their support. But after the Fraternal Order of Police’s announcement that Casper police officers had voted “no confidence” in Chief Jim Wetzel, she wanted to make a statement.
“That’s a good reality check for a leader,” Humphrey said. “You need to make sure your team follows you.”
The move came after three weeks of turmoil at City Hall, during which evidence of low morale at the police department mixed with the sudden retirement of City Manager V.H. McDonald and heightened rhetoric from Council members.
If there was any risk in Humphrey’s gambit, her position as mayor appears safe.
Vice Mayor Ray Pacheco and four other Council members told the Star-Tribune on Wednesday that they were in favor of Humphrey continuing as mayor. The remaining two — Shawn Johnson and Amanda Huckabay — have made public comments of support.
“I certainly want to make sure that she’s supported,” said Pacheco. “I don’t think it’s going to do any good for us to be splintered.”
While the mayor holds little individual authority under Casper’s system of government, Humphrey faced some criticism and calls to resign from members of the public at Tuesday’s Council meeting.
She said after the meeting that she would “think about” resigning and would do so if she lacked the support of Council members.
The unanimous support for Humphrey’s leadership is notable given that her election as mayor, usually a formality determined in advance by a straw poll, saw dissent from both Walsh and Huckabay.
The two supported Johnson for mayor but now back Humphrey.
“I don’t think she should step down,” said Councilman Chris Walsh.
Johnson, who criticized Council leadership last week, publicly supported Humphrey on social media Tuesday night.
“She took my criticism for what it was and made the appropriate changes,” Johnson wrote on Facebook. “She’s fighting with us and not against us. Give her a chance and I’ll bet you will all be pleasantly surprised.”
Some City Council members expressed anger last week over the city’s failure to properly inform them of McDonald’s resignation. The former city manager announced his decision to the leadership team during a lunch meeting on April 6, but several members only found out hours later, when the city sent out an emailed statement to members of the public.
Councilman Jesse Morgan said he was bothered by the lack of communication but that his concerns had been addressed.
“The communication is there now,” he said.
Morgan said it was Humphrey’s choice whether to step down but that he did not object to her remaining in the role.
“I guess I’m OK with it,” he said. “The changes that have been made recently — I’m happy with the results.”
The race for mayor divided between newly elected members of Council, who backed Johnson, and the incumbents, who backed Humphrey.
Charlie Powell, one of the returning Council members, said Humphrey had retained his support.
“I voted for her; I would vote for her again,” he said. “She’s done a very good job on remaining focused on the things that are important... she has the experience that Council needs at this point in time.”
Humphrey said she never thought Council members lacked confidence in her leadership.
“I was just making a point,” she said. “If my Council had no faith in me and thought I couldn’t do it, I would quit the job in a heartbeat.”
But Humphrey stopped short of directly addressing Wetzel’s decision to remain chief despite dozens of officers speaking against his leadership in a survey and subsequent vote by the local FOP branch.
“I couldn’t make that decision for him,” she said. “I’ve never walked in his shoes.”