Casper City Manager V.H. McDonald denied rumors that his retirement was imminent the day before he announced that he would be stepping down but acknowledged he was growing weary of how his work for the city was being seen.
“It’s all hindsight and gotcha and you’ve done something wrong and we’re going to figure it out and chase you down,” he told the Star-Tribune in an interview Wednesday. “It’s very hard, if you’re in this position. It’s very hard.”
McDonald announced his retirement, effective June 1, on Thursday afternoon. He became eligible for retirement in February.
Earlier in the week, Casper City Council received a survey from the local lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police outlining low employee morale at the police department. The survey primarily blamed Chief Jim Wetzel but also criticized McDonald, claiming he was aware of problems at the department but had not taken meaningful action.
Speaking about the survey’s findings but before McDonald’s retirement announcement, Mayor Kenyne Humphrey declined to say whether she still had confidence in McDonald’s ability to run the city administration.
“I don’t know how to answer that,” she said.
Humphrey said she would know more after meeting with McDonald on Thursday morning.
Humphrey said that McDonald had previously discussed retirement with Council leadership and that news coverage had weighed on him.
In addition to this week’s revelations about the police department, Casper fire Chief Kenny King announced his retirement last fall after a Star-Tribune investigation revealed he had told a subordinate to delete the “bad parts” of a video of the Cole Creek Fire. King later said he was joking.
“V.H. is very dedicated, works hard and wants to do the best job for everybody, and I think when he sees negative press coverage but knows he gave it his all, I think that’s very frustrating,” Humphrey said. “There’s probably only so much a person can take a beating on before they’re just tired.”
In the interview Wednesday, McDonald said that it wasn’t coverage specifically that frustrated him but rather the way positive work was overlooked in general.
“We work our hearts out here,” he said. “We come to work every day to improve things and when you’re working hard and you’re doing a multitude of work that never gets covered and never gets spoken about... that’s the issue.”
McDonald gave examples including the improvement of services for residents and proactive financial moves such as rejecting requests from companies to raise the price of a job after a contract has been negotiated.
An accountant with decades of experience working for local governments in Wyoming, McDonald has helped steer Casper through the economic downturn with minimal impact on city services.
He said on Wednesday that his retirement was not imminent because of how many uncompleted projects remained on the table.
McDonald cited a litany of looming city business including the budget process, interim legislative topics to be addressed, the Generation Casper long-range city plan, planning for the Wyoming Eclipse Festival, work on an internal communication system at the city, dealing with the Plains Furniture property purchased by the city last year and ongoing changes at the Casper Events Center as it enters its first full year of private management.
“We have a lot going on,” he said.
Humphrey said that while the past year has been taxing for McDonald, his discussions with Council leadership about retirement centered on his passions outside of work.
“We talked more about his passion for fishing and the outdoors and spending time with family,” she said.