A particularly nasty rumor surfaced this week. The word on the street is that members of the Wellington Village Council plan to present a motion calling for the dismissal of longtime Village Manager Paul Schofield. That would be the same Paul Schofield who helped Wellington weather the economic storm of recent years, slashing the budget without gutting village services. He kept Wellington growing while other communities lapsed into disrepair. He is at least partially responsible for the nice rebound in Wellington’s economy, the maintaining of Wellington’s high level of services and the rapid recovery of Wellington’s real estate values. Oh, and probably most importantly, Schofield manages an excellent staff that works hard to run the village competently and professionally.
At a June 2013 council meeting, a last-minute addition to the agenda sparked controversy the last time council members sought to fire Schofield. With dozens of community leaders coming to his defense, the matter devolved into mediation for the council and Schofield — with the mediator finding that issues in Wellington were largely because of the warring council members and not, as suggested, Schofield’s leadership. Though he stayed on as manager for the past year, the matter was never truly resolved.
It’s a year later, and Schofield may be in the hot seat once again. If rumors prove true, the council might once again face the decision of whether to fire Schofield. This would be a costly decision for Wellington — fiscally and from a leadership standpoint. In 2010, Schofield was given a six-year contract with strong financial penalties for firing him without cause before his contract expires in February 2016. Firing him now would likely cost taxpayers in excess of $450,000 in cash and other benefits.
In a budget year where council members are scrutinizing each minor expense, needlessly firing its manager at a far greater expense is fiscally irresponsible. But the real damage would come from losing Schofield’s decades of experience and leadership, tossing Wellington again into a state of uncertainty.
Over the past two years, Schofield has been a source of stability on an otherwise fractured council. He has kept the village running despite strong, polarized opinions of how that should be done. Further, he has managed to build compromise and find consensus where many feared there would be none. Despite much controversy during this time, Schofield has helped the council navigate hot-button issues, such as hiring an in-house attorney, moving the Wellington Tennis Center and navigating the difficult process of evaluating offers for K-Park.
And because of his leadership over the past several years, Wellington is in a good place financially. Schofield was instrumental in weathering the economic downturn, slashing Wellington’s budget from nearly $130 million in the boom years to $76 million. He kept the village running on almost half the budget and managed to make improvements and find room for key projects. Because of this, Wellington is in a position to grow and improve its facilities, to update its infrastructure and to look toward future improvements.
We truly hope that Wellington’s council is not actually willing to undermine the village’s future simply to satisfy a vendetta. To lose Schofield’s insight and leadership would be a massive blow to Wellington, which still has much to decide for its future. Schofield has ensured the village is poised to have a successful road ahead, and he should be around to make sure it gets there. The same should not apply to those who vote to remove him.