BY MAYUMI ELEGADO AND ALEX HOEFT | Moonshine Ink
Editor’s note: Becca Loux, reporter and editor for Moonshine, is the daughter of Truckee Town Manager Jeff Loux. However, she played no role in the reporting nor writing of this article.
Jeff Loux’s position as Truckee’s town manager was cut short on June 25 with the announcement of his retirement, effective July 1.
“It just felt like not a bad time to do this,” Loux told Moonshine Ink. “It wasn’t my original plan, the original plan was to go a bit longer, but I think this is good. I feel very fortunate to have worked for Truckee … The town government’s an incredible bunch; they’ll be in good hands.”
While multiple staff, Mayor David Polivy, and Loux himself said the decision was one made entirely by Loux, a performance review in early June and a closer look at his contract reveal more movement behind the scenes.
Loux, who began his position as town manager on Aug. 4, 2017, entered a five-year contract at that time, set to expire Aug. 3, 2022 unless terminated by either party. Opportunity to continue after that date would be made on a year-by-year basis. (The contract was updated with slight modifications in August 2019 per Loux’s request, and is available here.)
But a separation and release agreement between the town and Loux states that Loux “irrevocably retires” from his position as town manager, effective Feb. 20, 2021. The document was signed June 16 by Loux and Kim Szczurek, acting town manager.
“When someone leaves the town’s employ, it’s not unusual to have a separation agreement, especially if it’s somebody who’s over the age of 40 where the separation agreement will call for them to release any claims against the town,” explained town attorney Andrew Morris.
Morris was tight-lipped about the difference between the contract end-period date in August 2022 and the February 2021 retirement one listed in the separation agreement, only saying, “We believe the separation agreement is consistent with Jeff’s contract and that we have complied with the town’s obligations under his contract.”
From July 1, his day of retirement, to Aug. 20, Loux will be operating in paid-leave status, utilizing sick leave, compensatory time off, and 10 days of administrative leave. Following Aug. 20, the town will pay Loux the amount he would be receiving if he was still functioning as town manager until Feb. 20, 2021, the retirement date noted in his separation agreement. Based on his salary from his 2019 employment agreement ($191,734), Loux will make approximately $123,152 from July 1, 2020 to Feb. 20, 2021. During this period, he is not permitted to perform town-related work unless requested or directed by the interim manager or designee.
Morris also chose to not comment on whether or not Loux abided by a clause in his employment agreement that allowed him to “voluntarily terminate” his job with “not less than 60 days notice.”
“What we can tell you is [Loux] signed the [separation] agreement on [June] 16, and federal law gives employees over the age of 40 time to think about things for seven days,” Morris said. “Somebody of that age/class has seven days to rescind their approval of a document.”
Loux did not change his mind, sending an email out to all town staff the morning of June 25, followed shortly after by a Town of Truckee Facebook post announcing his decision. In the email to staff, Loux cited his upcoming 64th birthday and an understanding that “it is simply time.”
The news came two weeks after Robert Leftwich, Truckee police chief, announced his own retirement, effective July 3. Leftwich’s departure is clouded by a leaked email sharing his views on the topic of police brutality and the death of George Floyd, and a subsequent town hall on the topic. Mayor Polivy said Loux’s announcement was not brought about by public calls for his job, at least “not in the same way that the chief’s was … Nothing to the level of what happened with the chief.”
Loux echoed Polivy’s statement on the lack of relationship between his and Leftwich’s leave date: “There’s no connection between Chief Leftwich’s situation and mine and the very unfortunate coincidence of all things coming together with COVID and protests and all that. Really, there’s no connection, purely my decision and the chief’s decision and those are independent … No one in the town government or anyone who knows the situation is trying to connect them.”
Of similar timing concurrence is Loux’s annual performance review, which took place June 9. Neither Loux nor Polivy would comment on the evaluation. Polivy and town attorney Morris both mentioned personnel issues aren’t discussed due to privacy concerns.
Originally hired by then-town manager Tony Lashbrook, Loux spent six months with the Town of Truckee as the community development director. When Lashbrook retired in 2017, Loux stepped in as town manager, serving in that capacity for three years — just shy of the four-year average of city managers across California (as reported by Grassroots Lab in 2015). Lashbrook, on the other hand, served as town manager for 12 years, from 2005 to 2017, and before that as the town’s community development director from 1994 to 2005.
Though Polivy never worked directly with Lashbrook in a council member-town manager capacity, he was able to offer perspective on the differences in their leadership styles based on his work with Lashbrook as a citizen.
“Jeff [Loux] was more of a consensus builder and really was excellent at facilitation and really liked to bring everybody to the table and everybody together,” he said. “I can’t speak to Tony [Lashbrook] because I never worked with him, but I think Tony had a lot of history in the community, so he had already gained the community’s trust over the years that he was able to act a little bit more directly or sort of aggressively at times.”
Loux, Polivy continued, was working to build that trust in the community, and thus approached his position with a gentler touch. Still, under Loux’s direction, “council was well managed and Jeff did a good job of balancing council requests and priorities with everyday resources.”
Current town council is similar in its lack of seniority. David Tirman and Jessica Abrams have the longest tenure, both appointed in December 2016. Anna Klovstad and Polivy joined the council ranks in November 2018, and Tony Commendatore is the newest member, stepping in for Morgan Goodwin in September 2019.
“Not quite as much continuity as past councils, but that didn’t really play into the decision I made,” Loux said. “… Every council fashions its own direction.”
Until a replacement is found, Kim Szczurek, director of administrative services for the town, will serve as interim town manager — a position she said she’s been in before during Lashbrook’s vacation times. Despite serving as the face of the position, Szczurek said it’s really a collaborative effort between all department heads on staff to continue to provide services from the town.
“The day-to-day is responding to community inquiries, it’s working with the council to make sure their priorities are continued to be addressed,” Szczurek explained. “… Continu[ing] to work with businesses on all complexities of dealing with COVID. It’s really just keeping things moving along and responding to things.”
Szczurek is not going to apply to be the next town manager, joking that she’s closer to the end of her career rather than the beginning. This week, she said, staff hopes to have a process in place to replace the town manager.
“I do know we’ll be doing community outreach to ask the citizens about the competencies that are important to them in a town manager, or the traits that are important to them,” she said. “We’re going to do that in a number of ways, in both English and Spanish. Ultimately, it’s the town council who will make the decision, but we’ll provide all the community input to them.”
Bronwyn Roberts, town communications analyst, told Moonshine in an email the town is in the process of hiring a recruitment firm to bring on the next town manager. Specific dates, a timeline, and more details, she said, will also be available this week.
Capt. Randy Billingsley with the police department will serve as interim police chief.
As for how soon a new town manager will be in place, Polivy says the sooner the better.
“We don’t have a deadline,” he noted, “but I would say we plan to move rapidly.”
As for the outgoing manager, Loux said his future will certainly be more relaxed; more time with his partner and family, more time hiking, kayaking, and golfing.
“I used to get to teach in Europe every year for a month,” he said. “… Probably will go back to some of that if they’ll have me.”