PALESTINE—Palestine city manager Wendy Ellis says she is hard at work “saving taxpayer money” by consolidating positions and declining to hire replacements for city staff who have recently retired or left for other jobs. Although a few select employees close to Ellis are receiving lucrative pay increases under her new policy, Ellis claims there is an overall savings to the budget due to a reduction in the total number of staff.
Despite growing discontent among longtime city employees, Ellis remains optimistic that within the not-to-distant future, she and three or four of her most loyal staff members will be able to assume all of the duties at city hall, including responding to police and fire calls. “I’ve always dreamed of being a fire chief” she said, then responded quickly to extinguish concerns about her firefighting capabilities by stating, “I’ve watered my garden for years, I can handle a hose, what’s your point?”
As for police duties, Ellis says the thought of being able to “lock up her critics and throw away the key” makes her “absolutely giddy from excitement”. In assuming the roles of both law enforcement officer and municipal judge, Ellis guarantees her taxpayers will see a sharp rise in court revenues which will help fund her overall plan, explaining, “It’s all about seeing the big picture”.
By reducing the current employee level from approximately one hundred seventy down to four or five, Ellis argues although the salaries may appear high per individual, the savings generated by such a move cannot be disputed, “So what if I should end up making a couple of million dollars a year because of this process, if it will save my taxpayers even one dollar, that’s all that really matters”. Drawing on her background in economic development, she explained that $1 spent locally ultimately translates into $300,000 in revenue for the city. “I know it’s hard to believe”, she stated, “but we spent $300,000 on software that confirms that, so the next dollar spent at a local store will actually pay for the software”.
Ellis then turned her attention toward city council, lamenting the fact her city councilmembers cannot share in her good fortune, noting the limitations for council salaries contained in the city charter, while emphasizing the point none of her policies would have been possible without such an inattentive bunch, “I’ve trained them well and it’s really a shame they can’t be better compensated, you know, I do believe in rewarding loyalty”. Pausing to wipe away a tear, she continued, “I mean they show up once every two weeks on meeting day, consume large amounts of free food and drinks, then willingly approve all my ideas in the process, while receiving almost nothing in the form of a salary. I couldn’t have done any of this without their unquestioning devotion and support, but most importantly their votes. I don’t think the average citizen realizes the difficulty involved in clearing your throat and saying the word “aye” in front of one or two disinterested citizens and a TV camera that may or may not be working at the time”. She went on to say, “It almost seems unfair.”
As a gesture of goodwill, Ellis indicated she is hoping to provide members of council with “Wendy Loves Me” t-shirts, saying, “I feel each of them deserves a little something special in exchange for the loyalty they have demonstrated for me, and given the circumstances, it is the least I can do.” Staying true to her reputation of being a tenacious defender of frugal spending, she quickly added, “But, it all depends on whether or not there is money in the budget for such a generous gesture on my part, but I’m so proud of my council for making me rich, I’ll do my best to make it happen.” When asked if t-shirts would be provided to a couple of councilmembers who have actually raised questions about her actions, Ellis defiantly raised her middle finger, uniquely decorated to resemble a Christmas pickle, and said with a wry smile, “No, this is all they’ll get, and it won’t cost my taxpayers a dime.”