Since taking over as acting city manager, South Lake Tahoe Fire and Rescue Chief Jeff Meston has been juggling two full-time positions for two months — and he's ready for a change.
Meston took over as acting city manager after former City Manager Nancy Kerry was placed on indefinite paid leave on Feb. 6 for undisclosed reasons.
On March 6, City Council accepted Kerry's conditional letter of resignation, which included a non-disparagement clause preventing both sides from writing anything "negative, defamatory or critical of the other party."
In a letter to all members of City Council on April 4, Meston said the fire department is beginning to suffer due to the demands of the city manager position.
"Due to current fire department staffing, all fire personnel I have are assigned to shift work. I have relied upon my Battalion Chiefs to assist with filling the gaps that I have created by working as the acting City Manager, but honestly this situation has taken a toll on our fire department," wrote Meston.
"We have several critical issues pending which include finalization of the Standards of Cover Document (Council goal), hiring additional personnel, our communication system replacement plan as well as the lawsuit over the ladder truck."
Meston also serves as the president-elect of the California Fire Chief's Association.
The fire chief requested that City Council move forward with hiring an interim city manager in the next 30 days.
"I believe the city will be better served with a professional city manager and I know the fire department will be better served if I focus my efforts on my dedicated staff," continued Meston.
On Thursday Mayor Wendy David told the Tribune the council had not had a chance to meet yet to discuss Meston's letter.
"We are so appreciative of him stepping in and understand his primary job at both the local level and state level," said David. "We'll be looking to getting an interim city manager so that we can bridge that gap until we are able to complete the process for a permanent city manager."
David said she does not believe the interim city manager will be hired from in-house.
"Chief Meston has been very generous and very cognizant of the need to always have someone in that leadership role," added David. "My thought is that he will work collaboratively with us to make sure someone is in place at the same time he steps down."
Though the council has briefly discussed hiring a new city manager, issues like contract negotiations with SnowGlobe Music Festival and determining an ordinance for cannabis have taken precedence.
At the March 20 City Council meeting, Meston told councilmembers he had begun the process of sending out "requests for qualifications" for recruiting firms to find both a city manager and a city attorney.
The council has not yet decided if they will hire the permanent city manager or allow the new incoming councilmembers to make that decision.
This discussion is expected to be agendized for a future meeting.