Editor's Note: Due to space restrictions in the March 31 issue, we have printed this article in its entirety here.
WOODBINE — Amber Nelson’s final day on the job as city administrator for Woodbine was last Friday, March 26.
At the regular Woodbine City Council meeting last Wednesday, during her normal city administrator’s report toward the end of the meeting, she shared some of her thoughts about the past five years and expressed some concerns she asked city officials to consider re-evaluating moving forward.
Nelson started by noting she has been in her job for almost five years.
“And there’s been a lot of good that has come out of this position,” she added, referring to, for example, the connections made across the state and how some of them have moved from being just acquaintances to friends.
The City is in such a rare position, with two huge economic developments projects going on, she continued.
Those two projects Nelson is referencing are establishing the CREW Center property as a TIF district and the creation of a new housing development near that Center. It will eventually include 150 houses and be established as a TIF district as well.
She also expressed some concerns. She laid them out for the Council.
In my job I have learned a lot about the City, people, as well as myself, she said to preface these concerns. First, perception is everything.
“Two people can look at the same exact thing and see it totally different,” said Nelson.
For this she likes to use the old saying, “We can agree to disagree and be respectful about it.”
Second, you cannot force respect but can refuse to be disrespected.
And furthermore, respect is for those who earn it, not for those who demand or think they are entitled to it, said Nelson.
The ability to keep one’s word says a lot about their character and so does the ability to apologize, she continued.
“I have never been in a workplace environment where some leaders, whether paid, elected or both, demean someone else’s job and more so, demean their employees,” said Amber.
She is truly flabbergasted by certain individuals who want to push against the very people that help make this organization run and when running well, make those certain individuals in the leadership positions look like they’re doing an amazing job.
Nelson also suggested the City Council to take a refresher course in the open meetings laws.
I may ask questions for clarification or for more information, but have never put myself in a situation where I am part of a “walking quorum.” (That term is used to describe city officials coming together informally and making decisions outside of the public meetings.)
“It is against the law and the [City] Council, at one time, in Woodbine, has been written up for that,” said Nelson.
She strongly encouraged the Council to not take part in a “walking quorum” because it is going to get them in trouble.
“And next time, it’s going to be fines,” she said, adding that those would be assessed to each individual and not the City of Woodbine.
Nelson re-established that she does not have an “axe to grind with anyone.” I have wanted to say some things for five years, and now I can without fear of repercussions, she commented.
Nelson admitted that there were things she could have done differently.
“And...my actions weren’t always ones of professionalism or maturity,” she said.
In her eyes, Woodbine is full of endless possibilities, but making progress is not an easy task.
The part she doesn’t understand is when individuals are in a position to keep the town moving forward, why do they continue to stand in their own way?
Having said all this, Nelson doesn’t want anyone to have a bad impression of the Council or the people who work in the city building, whether it be city employees or those who work for Woodbine Municipal Light & Power.
The reason: She realizes that when in an elected position, you cannot please everyone. And sometimes you upset your friends and family members.
So there is part of me that respects you guys more than 110 percent because you have all been in positions where you receive a lot of negative feedback, she commented.
In her closing few minutes, Nelson spoke to another group, this time, the public. She encouraged them to take an interest in city government.
Woodbine is changing and you can be part of that change, she continued.
Not only did she encourage all community members to take an interest in city government, but also get out there and vote during the elections.
She also explained that she loved the job and many of the people she worked with.
Also, the job had perks like being in town but also close to home. She is close to where her children attend school. Those were just a few examples.
In her mind, she planned to work at this job until retirement. Yet, she is taking a job further from home and taking a cut in pay.
And I think that that’s something people need to think about, she commented.
She thanked the Council for hiring her and told them she has enjoyed working with them.
Her hope is that however the City decides to structure the position in the future, particularly in relationship to the city clerk position, they will take what currently exists and make it better.
After Nelson finished speaking, Council members thanked her for all her hard work over the past roughly five years and wished her the best of luck.