Santa Fe’s city manager, Erik Litzenberg, is moving on from the top job at City Hall. He announced his resignation as city manager to members of the media early Tuesday in a meeting where both he and Mayor Alan Webber carried the message that the change is not a reflection of any rift or conflict between the two officials.
Litzenberg is the second city manager to resign during the first two years of Mayor Alan Webber’s tenure.
The former chief of the Santa Fe Fire Department says his choice to step down from the manager job he’s held for about 13 months is due to “personal and professionally personal reasons” that include the desire to spend more time with his family and to shift his focus back to fire and public safety issues.
"One of the strong realizations I've had over the last year and a half is that when I'm in that realm [of fire, public safety and emergency response services] I feel exhilarated, I feel energized, I feel like I could contribute 24 hours a day and never get tired," says Litzenberg, adding that he's not sure yet if he will take another position in public service or retire to finish research for his doctorate degree in fire and community risk reduction.
All in all, it seems, managing the city just didn’t quite spark the same kind of passion.
A recent vacancy at the top of the Santa Fe County Fire Department did not influence his decision to step down from city management, says Litzenberg, but it is something he is considering “among many other options.”
Litzenberg told city employees of the decision earlier in the day, but the official date for his departure has not yet been set. In part, he says, this is because intends to work closely with the mayor to find a replacement and says he hopes to stay through the transition to a new city manager.
Guiding the recruitment process for his replacement and finding the best person for the job is in many ways a culmination of the role that Litzenberg was initially hired to fill. In 2018 he stepped up to the position of interim city manager after former City Manager Brian Snyder was asked to resign for sidestepping regulations regarding pay raises for employees.
Webber says he understood when he appointed Litzenberg to the permanent position that city management was not part of Litzenberg’s long-term career ambitions, but he hoped the former fire chief’s accomplishments building a high performing leadership team in the Fire Department would translate building a more cohesive, effective leadership team for city government.
"The goal was creating a team that was ready to lead the city well into the future and we've done that," said Litzenberg.
The mayor agreed, "We now have a tremendous team, and a lot of the credit for that goes to Erik," adding that unlike the often abrupt or tumultuous departures of other city managers, he expects this to be a much smoother transition.
The mayor alluded to job's intense workload as a challenge to filling the position.
“We need to reflect when someone of his character says that there are personal and professional reasons, what the lessons learned are for going forward so that we attract, keep, develop and reward the best talent we can find,” he said.
Webber said the search for a new city manager will begin locally and will expand from there to a nationwide search if necessary. “This is all about people first. We’ve got to get the right person in this job to take on a very difficult and rewarding fundamental task for the city.”