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Finalist for city's top post revealed

Staff writers

Elected officials have been extremely tight-lipped, but the Record has learned from other sources that a rancher from Oklahoma with decades of municipal and county management experience is the leading candidate to become Marion’s next city administrator.

Mark A. Skiles, 63, who most recently was city administrator in Clinton, Oklahoma, until his abrupt resignation in May 2020, was one of four finalists interviewed earlier this month.

After the interviews, Mayor David Mayfield was authorized to negotiate a contract. Counterproposals regarding the contract were discussed by council members in a series of three closed-door sessions Monday night.

Earlier in the meeting, members in open session approved paying Skiles’ expenses for traveling to Marion for his interview.

Skiles, a gregarious, mustachioed rancher, was city manager in Clinton, population 9,117, for nearly six years before inexplicably resigning.

People who knew Skiles have described him as “a lightning rod” and said “a storm goes wherever he goes.”

Upon his resignation from Clinton, he immediately ceased official duties but remained on the payroll for another three months, claiming accumulated sick leave.

No reason for his resignation was announced, but published accounts at the time suggested there had been disagreement over who in city government had authority to re-open municipal buildings closed for two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before arriving in Clinton, Skiles, who has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Oklahoma State and a master’s degree in management (though not specifically public administration) from Southeastern Oklahoma State, previously served as city manager for six years in Blackwell, Oklahoma.

The city council in Blackwell terminated his employment in 2014, paying him $125,459 under terms of a contract renewal they had signed just weeks earlier.

In Blackwell, a state audit questioned some of Skiles’ actions, including his elimination of statutorily required warnings before homeowners were fined for not mowing their yards.

His reimbursement of a property owner for a fence that Skiles considered to be in violation of zoning regulations but that had been approved by a zoning panel also was questioned in the lengthy state audit.

According to a Blackwell source, Skiles got a new contract shortly before his departure that included a raise and terms of an exit payment.

Skiles’ termination was hardly unusual for Blackwell. Two of his successors also were terminated with payouts in excess of $30,000 each.

Before that, Skiles served for less than a year in Concordia, Kansas, where he abruptly resigned after issuing a lengthy statement critical of some elected officials.

He previously was city manager of Eureka in 2006 and 2007, city administrator of Kiowa from 2003 to 2006, and director of economic development for Grant County in Ulysses from 2001 to 2003.

In his unexpected resignation statement in Concordia, Skiles wrote: “In other cities, you will find the commission, staff, and citizens in the community on the same page — actually pulling in the same direction. I’m not sure what it is, but there is a cancerous tumor in this city that is holding you back from what you can become.”

A dynamic person, described by those familiar with his work as a “lightning rod,” Skiles has not worked in municipal administration since leaving his position in Clinton, Oklahoma, in May 2020.

He was, however, a publicly announced finalist for positions in Miami, Oklahoma, and Alliance, Nebraska. In Alliance, the entire list of finalists was discarded and the search reopened.

Last modified July 1, 2022

 

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