By Charles Sercombe
Former City Manager Katrina Powell described her stay here for the past two-and-a-half years as something similar to a soldier being deployed into a hostile environment.
“I never planned on staying here longer than my two-and-a-half years, because when on deployment, you go into a hostile environment, you correct all that you can as quickly as you can, you take care of the troops who take care of you, and you leave the location in a much better place than it was when you got there,” Powell said in her “final words” to the state-appointed Receivership Transition Advisory Board at its monthly meeting in June.
The RTAB has been overseeing all financial and contractual agreements made by the city since a state-appointed emergency manager left at the time Powell was hired. Powell’s employment contract with the city expired on June 30.
The city council was divided over whether to extend her contract, but a bare majority prevailed to not keep her on.
Although Powell, who served in the Army for 20 years prior to working in the field of municipal management, told the RTAB she had no intention of staying beyond her contract, when a councilmember’s resolution came up on a council agenda to extend her contract, she did not discourage it.
Powell’s comments went on for 30 minutes and she spent it lashing out at her critics and listing her accomplishments.
Powell came from Florida to take this job, and told the RTAB that she immediately felt hostility when she came here to be interviewed by the city council.
That hostility, she said, increased when she began investigating former Police Chief Max Garbarino soon after becoming city manager.
The nature of the investigation was never explained, and a few days after it began Garbarino voluntarily resigned. At the time Powell refused to comment on the investigation.
At the RTAB meeting she reversed that position and talked extensively about it.
A link to the transcript of the meeting can be found on the city’s web page.
Garbarino was never accused of wrongdoing, but Powell’s comments to the RTAB suggest otherwise.
Garbarino and the city signed a separation agreement. It was not immediately clear if Powell’s comments violated the terms – or the spirit – of that agreement.
Garbarino declined to comment.
Some of her accomplishments included getting long-neglected and overdue repairs done to Conant, a Wayne County-owned road. That was an achievement past city managers and city councils tried but failed to achieve.
Under Powell’s leadership, the city also started up a yearly street and alley repair program, improved city parks, received federal funding to install a new sewer system in the southend to alleviate ongoing basement flooding during heavy storms and surpassing the emergency manager’s projected $2 million budget surplus to about $5 million.
Powell had nothing but praise for the community at large.
“I have eaten in more homes here of people I don’t know than my entire years of life,” Powell said. “The people of this town are welcoming, hardworking, and humble, and I am blessed to have met them.”
She had the warmest remarks for staffmembers, especially her former assistant, Danesha Reeder.
“She had an impeccable taste in fashion and an incredible calming demeanor with the residents and me, partnered with an unbelievable work ethic to boot. She is my ride or die chick always,” Powell said.
She went to accuse – but not naming — those seeking elected office and holding elected positions of “bullying” community members and committing election fraud and drug dealing.
“The election fraud and drug dealing are real in this town,” she said.
In closing she said:
“You see, I’m not an operative of the former EM, or the Governor, who I’ve never met, by the way, like some officials, city officials, former city attorneys, obstructionists, or newspapers want you to think I am. I’m just a girl who likes a challenge and to make the world a better place, one mission at a time. I can undeniably say, I’ve completed the mission. KP out.”