BOWIE – It truly is the end of an era, as a man who has served the city of Bowie for nearly a quarter of its incorporated history is retiring. City Manager David Deutsch, who has held the post for 23 years, is stepping down effective June 10. Deutsch was at the helm during some […]
BOWIE – It truly is the end of an era, as a man who has served the city of Bowie for nearly a quarter of its incorporated history is retiring.
City Manager David Deutsch, who has held the post for 23 years, is stepping down effective June 10. Deutsch was at the helm during some of the major transitions the city has gone through, including the move to a new city hall, the addition of the city-run senior center and gymnasium, and the creation of the Bowie Police Department.
“It’s bittersweet. It’s been a great community and it’s been a great place to work. I’ve enjoyed it,” Deutsch said. “I just decided it was time to make a change. It was nothing at all negative here, just a new chapter in our lives is beginning.”
However, Deutsch said he will miss the people he has worked with in the city, including the elected officials.
“We’ve got a great team and the elected officials here have been very supportive of our efforts and it’s pretty positive from that perspective. There aren’t many communities that have the kinds of support for staff that the city council has demonstrated over the years,” he said.
The fond feelings are mutual. The city held two retirement celebrations for Deutsch to allow staff to wish him well. Council members also took time during their budget remarks to thank Deutsch for his efforts and his commitment to the city.
Speaking of his departure, Councilwoman Diane Polangin said, “We’re going to sorely miss David. My heart is breaking, it is broken.”
Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson agreed.
“I’m a big fan of David Deutsch. He’s been an incredible partner here. He’s without a doubt the best city manager in the state,” Robinson said. “You could talk all you want about his skills and abilities but to me, the most important thing is what’s inside him, and inside him is an honest, decent man.”
Deutsch said one of the most significant accomplishments of his tenure has been the creation of the city’s police department, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.
“It was a comprehensive effort, it was a team effort,” Deutsch said. “It’s taken a lot of commitment on the part of everybody that’s involved. But we’ve built a department that contains solid professionals. And we were able to do it at a manageable cost.”
Deutsch and the other city staff spent countless hours gathering data and making cost projections in order to make sure the community and the council had all the information they needed in advance of the referendum on the issue.
“One of the things that is most important is the interdepartmental nature of our work. It wasn’t just the city manager working with one staff person. It was a good template for analyzing and producing data on a comprehensive, significant issue. We used a similar approach when the council was considering land use changes at the Melford project,” he explained.
Robinson attributed the police department’s success, as well as the functioning of the other city departments, to Deutsch’s ability to find the best people to lead.
“David’s been very, very good at putting people in key positions. The police department, we started with nothing and built it from scratch. The success of that is largely because of the careful thing we did in terms of making sure the right people were in the right jobs,” Robinson said. “He has assembled an incredibly effective staff. The people he’s brought on have been thoughtful, caring, smart people that do a great job.”
After stepping down, Deutsch and his wife, Jane, are moving to the Eastern Shore, where they have a home and family nearby. Deutsch said he will be doing some consulting work.
He thanked his wife for “sharing” him with the city for two decades.
“You have a lot of night meetings. There are certain times where you’re just out frequently at meetings or you come home and you’re pretty stressed because of what the day’s been, but Jane’s been extremely supportive of my work here and indeed of this whole journey that we’ve been on together in local government,” Deutsch said.
With Deutsch’s retirement, Assistant City Manager John Fitzwater will assume the role of acting city manager while an executive search firm retained by the city begins the process of recruiting for the position.
Deutsch said city leadership would be looking for someone willing to serve for a long time, as he and his predecessor (who was in the post for 15 years) had.
“The city manager position often has more frequent turnover. Generally you hear six to seven years on average. I think there’s a city council expectation that whoever comes, they would want that person to be here for a while, to come in and sink some roots into the community. That’s very helpful, to feel part of the community,” he said.
Robinson said among the qualities he is looking for in a new city manager is dedication and willingness to work long hours, excellent communication skills, the ability to run the city’s day-to-day operations without much council interference, and experience working with other levels of government.
“For me, David Deutsch is going to be the standard by which we judge all the other applicants. I’m looking for somebody who can work well with a diverse council and a diverse community,” he said.
Robinson said his goal is to have the new manager in place by January 1, 2017, to allow him or her to effectively work on the fiscal year 2018 budget.
“Whoever is the manager has to be here long enough to get their fingerprints on the budget,” he said.