The sudden resignation of county manager E. Winn Davis last week was followed by a noticeable atmosphere of calm and quiet this week.
Mr. Davis read his letter of resignation during a tense county commission meeting last Wednesday that included a nearly two-hour executive session and an accusation from one commissioner that a subgroup of commissioners had somehow influenced Mr. Davis to resign.
But this week several commissioners spoke out with positive comments about Mr. Davis and his tenure as county manager. While some said they agreed the county may be well served by the change, they praised Mr. Davis for the way he handled the situation.
"I think he showed a lot of class the way he handled it. He did not take shots at anyone or go negative," commissioner Roger Wey said.
In a one-page letter that he read aloud last week, Mr. Davis said he decided to resign because he felt his performance had become too much of a distraction in recent weeks. Among other things he had come under fire for a failed gambit to use federal disaster funds to repair the breach at Norton Point beach.
His resignation comes at a time of great uncertainty surrounding county government, which is currently under examination by a charter study group elected by voters last fall. The group is charged with making recommendations for change or possibly abolishing county government at the end of 18 months.
Paul Strauss, the chairman of the county commission, said this week he felt that Mr. Davis looked at the political landscape and did what he felt was best for the county.
"I think he understood the mood of the people. No matter how you feel about him as a county manager, I think he did what he felt was the best thing in the situation," Mr. Strauss said.
Mr. Strauss confirmed that Mr. Davis, who currently earns an annual salary of $79,194, will officially end his job on Sept. 14, but will effectively stop working in mid-August when he will take a month of unused vacation time.
Mr. Strauss said he told Mr. Davis that he has the leeway to search for another job during his final months as county manager, and even gave him permission to use county resources in his search.
"I told him I was sensitive to the situation he was in, and I let him know I understand he has to do what he has to do [to find employment]," Mr. Strauss said.
Mr. Strauss said county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders will be sworn in as deputy manager, and will likely act as interim county manager once Mr. Davis leaves his post. County commissioners will discuss the next step at their regular meeting on Wednesday.
Mr. Strauss said the commissioners likely will vote to appoint Ms. Flanders as acting county manager.
He also said he expects the commission will take its time deciding whether to hire a permanent county manager to replace Mr. Davis. Although he did not rule out the possibility of hiring a new full-time manager, he acknowledged hiring a suitable candidate will be difficult while the charter study committee continues its review of county government.
"I'm not sure we could even find someone who would be willing to take a job that might not exist a year from now. [The county commission] will probably take its time before doing anything," Mr. Strauss said.
County commissioners have named an acting county manager in the past. Several years ago, Chilmark executive secretary Tim Carroll agreed to fill in to sign documents, and register of deeds Dianne Powers, who is also now a West Tisbury selectman, has helped fill in.
County commissioner Tristan Israel said he is not worried about the day-to-day operations of the county after Mr. Davis leaves. He also said he agreed the county commission should probably wait to hear the final report from the charter study panel before making any major decisions about the county manager position.
"I think we should consider only filling in the gaps until the charter group is finished. I, personally, am confident the charter group will recommend some type of changes," said Mr. Israel, who as a county commissioner is also a member of the charter study group.
Mr. Israel also said the county commission should look forward and not dwell on the past, and he too was cordial in his evaluation of Mr. Davis's resignation.
"It is unfortunate things didn't work out with Mr. Davis, but I agree we needed to move in a different direction. With that said, I have to say I appreciate the service that Mr. Davis has given to the county. I wish him luck," he said.
Mr. Davis said this week he has no ill feelings toward the county commissioners and said he has enjoyed his time as county manager.
"This has been kind of a bittersweet time for me. I am excited about the prospect of finding another municipal job, perhaps closer to my home [in Falmouth], but I will certainly miss the Island and the people I have worked with," he said.
Mr. Davis said he thinks county government can still work on the Island, and he pointed to the findings of the 1992 charter study panel which suggested that county government take a more active role in addressing regional issues like solid waste disposal and affordable housing.
He said the potential of county government has largely been tarnished by a clash of personalities and politics in recent years.
"I think if more people worked together we would be further along reaching those goals [outlined by the former charter study group]," he said.
Reiterating a statement he made last week, Mr. Davis said he believes the current charter study group intends to eliminate the county manager position - and that this played a part in his decision to resign.
Richard Knabel, a member of the charter study group and chairman of a subcommittee that is studying the county manager position, said there was no merit to the claim.
"To specifically say that he resigned because the [charter study panel] has placed an emphasis on eliminating the county manager position is a bit of a reach," Mr. Knabel said.
Mr. Knabel said they had invited Mr. Davis to attend several subcommittee meetings to discuss his job but he said the committee has not developed any kind of recommendation yet.
"By state law we are required to examine all options, and one of those options is to ask what happens if county government is abolished altogether. But we are not leaning one way or focusing one option. If that is truly the reason he resigned then I completely dispute that," Mr. Knabel said.