Dickinson city administrator announces resignation effective April 8
Following an announcement that was made aware to the public on Tuesday evening during the Dickinson City Commission meeting, City Administrator Brian Winningham is resigning and is expected to part ways with the city on April 8.
DICKINSON — At the end of the Dickinson City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Scott Decker publicly announced the receipt of a formal resignation by City Administrator Brian Winningham, whose tenure began in December of 2020. Winningham's tenured resignation comes with a final employment date of April 8.
Decker stated that Winningham had turned in his resignation letter to the City of Dickinson, and that his forthcoming absence would leave the municipality with just over a month to find an interim to fill his position. The commission met again Wednesday morning, in a special meeting, at the newly located City Hall to discuss the matter further and review contractual stipulations in light of the unexpected announcement.
It is a very sad time to be leaving this great city and all the teammates. I have poured all of my life from my very first day into making our city the best place to live, my intentions were never to leave.
Winningham confirmed during the meeting that he was not seeking severance from the city.
Decker and another commissioner are expected to meet on Monday, March 7, with the executive team in order to discuss who the city will name as the interim. During the meeting, Commissioner John Odermann expressed his interest in serving as the second commissioner for the process.
The mayor noted that he would like to have an interim in place by March 15, which is when the next Dickinson City Commission meeting is scheduled to take place.
“... Under the circumstances, I understand what Mr. Winningham is going through. I feel as commission president and mayor of the city, I need some assurances that you can continue to perform until that date,” Decker said.
Winningham replied that he has made a commitment for April 8, and expressed his view that the performance of his duties will remain as is until that date.
Decker cautioned that should circumstances change, he would need to be alerted immediately — a request acknowledged by Winningham who agreed.
“I think there’s a number of challenges that we face not just operationally within the departments, but in order to do some stability for (the) continuity government that I think it’s prudent to try to maintain that pace and timeline up to that date,” Winningham said. “I don’t think that all the particulars are in place yet to make decisions on naming an interim. We have worked through some of that with the staff, but I don’t think we’re prepared to even make a formal recommendation of who that could be and I think that needs to be set at another date to where we come at least with that recommendation of the options of having naming an interim that’s actually currently with the city or going forward and bringing in an interim from another location. But in some manner, there has to be a formalness of it to where that person is named and has the authority to continue the duties of the city administrator.”
Speaking to The Dickinson Press, Winningham noted that his decision to resign from the City of Dickinson was a personal matter related to his family and requires a move to Texas.
“It is a very sad time to be leaving this great city and all the teammates. I have poured all of my life from my very first day into making our city the best place to live, my intentions were never to leave,” Winningham said. “We do not get to control our life, we can only respond to the situations with the best decisions possible; family truly comes first and I can only say I made the best decisions possible as a father under the circumstance, while never intending harm to anyone.”
Following an executive session during Wednesday’s meeting, Decker noted that the city needed to expedite the transition and opened the floor up to commissioners for discussion and comments.
Odermann questioned Winningham on the timeline, asking why the April 8 final date was chosen.
“So some of that’s unknown,” he replied, explaining, “I think it measured out four to five, almost six weeks that essentially allows the commission and also city staff to make recommendations for timeline transition. There’s a few things that are occurring in March that need to get completed, but the reality is it'll be up to the commission to determine how fast you want to name someone as an interim. So that’s really it as far as the timeline is concerned.”
Tensions rose when Commissioner Jason Fridrich questioned whether the date was chosen as a result of Winningham accepting another position with the City of Mont Belvieu , which will begin on April 11.
Winningham replied, “It’s going to be a transition point. That was the best consideration instead of just offering a resignation based on my family matters.”
He added, “If you want to talk about things that I think are inappropriate, then we can do that because I have enough to share. But I think it’s better for the city — based on my resignation and based on what I’m going through — to continue with this timeline.”
Fridrich recommended expediting the process which prompted a response from Commissioner Suzi Sobolik who noted that the process was already being expedited enough.
“Mr. Winningham has done a lot of good work for us in the last year and a half and so, hopefully those are things that maybe whoever takes on that role does not know. But hopefully, those are things… that hopefully we can see carried forward,” Sobolik added.
Decker voiced his view that in light of the resignation, there is “enough local talent” to fill the role as interim by March 15, but noted that his preference would be that said individual wouldn’t be “interim for long.”
With tensions heightened, Odermann made a request that emotions be set aside and a logical decision be reached on progressing forward. Odermann cited Ash Wednesday as cause to approach the meeting with “grace, kindness and empathy.”
Odermann and Winningham both displayed ashes on their foreheads in observance of the Christian holy day.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak to this because I think it’s important for everyone to hear,” Odermann said. “I think emotions are really raw right now and it’s important for us, as a commission (and) executive team, to set a positive foot forward (and) set a positive example. (We should) not forget all the good that Mr. Winningham has done for the city over the last 14 months. I can’t imagine the weight and the gravity of the situation that he is in and the decision he feels forced to make here.
“... If we’re feeling emotions, it’s okay to feel emotions. But let’s not let them drive our decision-making process and the way that we react to each other at the city. Let’s make logical, well-reasoned decisions and do our best to treat people the way I think we would like our city to represent us as citizens and commissioners. I think it’s really important… I went through a whole roller coaster of emotions last night and yesterday, but I think that’s because we know what we have in Mr. Winningham and it’s tough to see him go.”
In a tense and emotional moment, Winningham refuted Fridrich’s assertions that the resignation date had been scheduled for reasons beyond those expressed in his resignation letter.
“Over the last 16 months, I have spent every waking hour coming to work for the best interest of the City of Dickinson. And I would challenge any person who has outworked me, who has not dedicated their life to this city, that has done more work than I have over the last 16 months. Challenge it. Come forward. To have my name right now at this moment, to have a commissioner at this moment intend to harm me at the moment that I’m asking to resign, it’s absolutely inappropriate. Absolutely wrong for the City of Dickinson. (It) should not be done. I hope people are going to see this, review it, it will live on YouTube and that’s great…But wow, at the moment that I am asking for a little bit of help to get my name and to be grandstanded as, ‘Oh, is that because you’re going to go to another job?’” Winningham said, sarcastically. “How dare you? That’s wrong. I can make my resignation effective immediately if that’s what this commission wishes. That would not be in the best interest of the City of Dickinson, but it’d certainly be in the best interest of me and that is not how I’ve lived my life. Every day, I’ve set out. Every one of these citizens can probably attest to that and they should come forward and they should defend me because they need to defend their city.”
To The Press, Winningham spoke on his proudest accomplishments since assuming the role.
“We have accomplished so many things in a short time, such as, the move to a new renovated City Hall with new commission space, breaking ground on the City Town Square, completing the city wage study and building the depth in our benefits and pay while creating lasting positions that will help provide greater service to the citizens,” he said. “We are better today because of the work from our city staff over the last 16 months. Our proudest accomplishment is the creation of the city’s first Youth Commission, our young people in this community are the future and being active players in the civic government will be the best for our future.
“For all (the) people I worked for over the last 16 months, I hope I gave more than I ever asked, but I will always be a better person for the time I shared with the citizens of Dickinson and the legendary state of North Dakota.”