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After Firing Top Staffers, Alpine City Council Picks Temp Replacements

The council's recent firing of two top city employees has drawn condemnation from some and has already sparked a recall effort.

By Travis Bubenik

A week after a contentious Alpine City Council meeting that ended with the firing of two top city employees, council members have decided who will temporarily fill the roles of the city's manager and secretary.

The council's recent ouster of Erik Zimmer and Cynthia Salas - the now former city manager and city secretary, respectively - has drawn condemnation from some and already sparked a recall effort in Alpine.

At a May 18 meeting, three council members voted with little to no debate to fire Zimmer and Salas. Two of the votes came from new council members who Alpine voters just elected earlier this month. Alpine’s city attorney Sandy Wilson also resigned at the meeting, after a proposal to fire her as well failed to advance to a vote.

At a special meeting Monday, the council appointed current finance director Megan Antrim as the city's interim manager and current executive coordinator Geo Calderon as the interim secretary.

The initial firings have already sparked a recall effort in Alpine among supporters of Zimmer and those angry about the way the process was carried out.

Rick Stephens, a former Alpine city council member helping organize the effort, said in an interview that those behind the recall campaign are mostly upset the council did not debate or discuss the firings before going to a vote.

"They were asked multiple times by members of the audience, and their response is, "We don't have to respond," and they just chose silence," he said. "In my mind, that's unacceptable for Democracy."

Judy Stokes, a newly elected council member who led the charge to fire the employees, declined to explain her reasoning at the May 18 meeting and has not responded to Marfa Public Radio's requests for comment on the issue.

Stephens said the recall campaign would first target council member Martin Sandate, one of the three who voted for the firings, and Alpine Mayor Andy Ramos, who did not vote on the issue. Under the city's charter, Stokes and fellow newcomer Sara Tandy, who also voted for the firings, cannot be recalled during the first six months of their terms.

In Texas, those pursuing a recall election generally have to obtain a certain number of petition signatures before the issue can be placed before voters.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.