When the axe fell on Bill Manning, it was quiet. When it fell on Dave Beck, it was even more so.
Both longtime Mammoth managers lost their positions this week as part of a town reorganization that eliminated the Airport Manager/Transit Coordinator job (Manning) and the Maintenance Superintendent job (Beck).
Rather than to wait until the July 1 budget took effect, both left immediately, with severance packages in hand.
“It wasn’t about politics,” said Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht. “It happened because our resources are so tight.”
Both jobs are to fall under the wing of Public Works Director Ray Jarvis, who now has one of the more pressure-packed assignments on the town staff.
He not only will direct airport and transit operations, he also will continue to direct road maintenance and snow removal.
“There is a lot to do,” Jarvis said, “and we’ll have to concentrate fully to keep our eye on the ball.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on at the airport. Losing Bill is a big hit. He had a thorough understanding of how it all worked. Between Brian Picken (assistant airport manager) and me, it will be basically a whole different department.
“At some point, something’s got to give, and you don’t want that ‘give’ to be at the airport. We’ve got to be super-focused. We have to do this for us to recover, and the airport is a key component to our recovery.”
Wilbrecht said Jarvis also would be in charge of environmental assessments at the airport, and planning.
“We’re going to have a very difficult time managing the town’s work,” Wilbrecht said, “but we need to do the work.”
In a way, it makes sense, especially in terms of snow removal. By being in charge of the town’s roads and the airport, Jarvis would be able to better coordinate resources, particularly in heavy snowfalls.
Yet in times of heavy snowfall at the airport, Manning himself would climb into the cab of a snowblower or plow, Jarvis said. Jarvis said he is completely untrained for that aspect of the job.
“No way do you want me in a snowblower,” he said with a laugh.
In losing Beck, Jarvis is losing one of the most respected snow-removal experts in the country.
At 53, Beck has moved snow in Mono County and Mammoth for 30 years.
He grew up with his parents in Aspendale and has worked here since 1982. He knows every boulder, driveway and snow pole all along the 110-lane miles in town.
He’s worked big winters, not-so-big winters, and with snow that is so laden with moisture that even his fleet of machines can’t budge it.
Manning’s situation is entirely different.
Holding an “at will” (non-union) position, Manning found himself at the heart of the Terry Ballas-Town of Mammoth Lakes breach of agreement lawsuit that resulted in the $42 million judgment against the town.
That, compounded with a $2.8 million budget shortfall (the result of a bad snow year and a Transient Occupancy Tax wipeout), has left the town cutting costs to the bone.
This week, the cuts went to the marrow of the bone.
Manning was a central and controversial character in the courtroom at Bridgeport Superior Court, and figured prominently in the California Appeals panel to uphold the Bridgeport decision.
Last year, the California Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, based on the appeals decision.
Manning also figured prominently in employee relations conflicts at the airport.
But in the end, it was not a termination; it was the elimination of his job entirely.
So, too, with Beck.
That leaves Jarvis holding the ball.
“There is a lot to have to concentrate on,” he said. “This has completely added stress and strain on the people who are left. It will require us to have a strong list of priorities.”