GREENFIELD — Jim Hahn resigned as city street commissioner late Monday after Mayor Chuck Fewell said the department needed a new direction in leadership.
While this is the second time the 20-year employee has lost his job with the city, Hahn says he holds no ill will against anyone in city government.
“The last words I said to Mayor Fewell were, ‘I’m sorry I let you down,’ ” Hahn said Tuesday afternoon.
Sitting in the back yard of his Greenfield home, Hahn said his phone hadn’t stopped ringing, and many friends and colleagues had been driving by, honking horns and wishing him the best.
Hahn said he was surprised he was asked to resign and points to several recent examples of hard work and long days during the area’s snowiest winter. But he was also diplomatic.
“I wanted to be gracious and walk away from it graciously,” Hahn said. “Maybe I wasn’t moving fast enough, quick enough. Maybe they need somebody a little bit smarter than me…. I may have outlived the job.”
Hahn, 49, was one of the city’s longest-serving employees, having started work for the city in 1992 as a driver. He was promoted in 2000 to street commissioner. But he hit a rough patch
in 2009, with health problems and a medical leave of absence. Hahn was later let go by Mayor Brad DeReamer after DeReamer said he had attended a meeting impaired; Hahn said he was taking a pain medication per a doctor’s orders.
Hahn got a second chance in 2012, when the late Mayor Dick Pasco brought him back as street commissioner.
Hahn said he’s enjoyed the past two years. Fewell took office in late December to fulfill the rest of Pasco’s term; Fewell said Tuesday morning that he wanted the street department to have a stronger leader.
“I think we need to have better structure for utilization of people and equipment,” he said, adding that he wants a street commissioner who’s willing to grow, learn and try new ideas. “I think there was a chance to change, to become more progressive.”
Fewell has a background in infrastructure, having worked as a lobbyist for Milestone Contractors. He said he did not have a particular person in mind yet to fill Hahn’s shoes; members of the street department staff are welcome to apply, and the city will likely advertise for the position as well.
Fewell said he understands Hahn was popular in the community and was strong at responding to concerns from local residents. He said he doesn’t know how the community will take the news of Hahn’s resignation.
“I would hope they would understand that departments have to be strong to provide the services,” Fewell said.
Department heads are appointed by the mayor, and while Hahn’s resignation was effective immediately, Fewell will take it to the city’s board of works for official approval next month.
Hahn said Fewell gave him little further explanation on why new leadership was needed. He pointed to many times during the winter when he worked long hours to clear city streets and respond to community complaints.
“It was kind of a shock (when Fewell said,) ‘Lack of leadership,’” Hahn said. “It’s like, ‘Did you get the right guy?’ But maybe they’re looking at leadership in a different way than I am.”
Assistant street commissioner Brad Evans and foreman Ryan Kinder will temporarily take on the leadership role at the city department until a permanent replacement can be found. Fewell had a meeting with street employees Tuesday morning, and Evans said throughout the rest of the day the department continued to do its job, filling work orders on potholes, cutting the edges of roads and picking up limbs in preparation of summertime paving projects.
Evans said it’s unfortunate Hahn won’t be on staff any longer, especially because Hahn always stressed the importance of helping local residents.
“If there was something that needed to be done, something brought to his attention, he was pretty good at getting on the ball really quick,” Evans said.
Hahn said helping local residents was what he enjoyed best about his job. He wished he would have had some kind of warning before being asked to resign Monday.
“It is what it is. I defend my work ethic, I defend my guys that work there because they do a good job,” Hahn said.
Also a volunteer with the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen and a member of the local Kiwanis and Knights of Columbus clubs, Hahn said he plans to continue assisting the community, and he will be looking for a new job. He said he appreciated the well-wishes Tuesday.
“Everyone is so concerned,” he said. “They think I’m upset, and I’m not. I’m really not.”