Washburn to resign as city manager

MARFA — At a virtual special session of the Marfa City Council on Tuesday night, city officials came out of a closed executive session with big news: John Washburn, the Marfa city manager hired late last year, will be resigning.

His last day will be September 30. “I would like the council to accept that letter request and to follow it,” City Attorney Teresa Todd told officials.

Citing “several issues,” including “health concerns,” Todd told council Washburn would be working at home for the remainder of his time in office. She said he was relinquishing some city manager duties and would instead “work on special projects.”

A measure accepting the resignation passed 3-1, with councilmembers Irma Salgado, Natalie Melendez and Yoseff Ben-Yehuda voting for it and Buck Johnston voting against.

“I voted nay because I wanted to end the city manager’s contract immediately,” Johnston said of her decision — adding that she thought the city should “definitely establish deliverables and deadlines for these special projects.” Councilmember Raul Lara, who was having technical difficulties with his Zoom call, was not present for the vote.

In an interview Wednesday, Washburn said he’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year and had had surgery in June. “My long-term prognosis is great,” he said — but between cancer, the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that his wife doesn’t live in Marfa, the circumstances “caused us to reevaluate things.” And ultimately, he decided he couldn’t continue to “give 110% to the city.”

Washburn said the city had a “great team” and that he would continue to support them in a management-consultant role through at least the end of September. He also encouraged residents to “take advantage of your annual wellness checks.”

But with his wife still in Kerrville, where the couple has a home, they decided “I need to come home, and we need to be together.”

“We obviously hoped it was a relationship that would last longer. It’s an important thing for that position to have some longevity,” said Councilmember Ben-Yehuda. “We thought we had that with John, and it just turned out — for unforeseen reasons — to not end up that way. Which is a bummer.”

“We all really wish him well,” Ben-Yehuda added. “He’s made the right choice, and we support that and absolutely wish him the best as he moves back to work from home.”

Mayor Manny Baeza said the decision came down to “health issues” but declined to comment further.

“I wish him well in his next chapter,” Baeza added. “He’s a very nice guy and good to work with — but it’s just been a tough year for him.”

In a statement, Todd said that “John has had a lot of unforeseeable adversities since becoming Marfa city manager in November.”

“I respect his decision to not seek a contract extension and want to thank him for his commitment and service to the city,” she said. “I’m glad the city can benefit from his expertise on special projects until September 30, when his contract ends.”