More city department heads leave

Merita Sandoval

The City of Odessa lost three more department heads in January, continuing a year-long trend of departures from the upper echelon at city hall.

Merita Sandoval, community development director, notified the city on Jan. 17 she’d be retiring effective Wednesday. She had worked for the city since October 1996.

JoAnn Samaniego, purchasing department director, turned in her retirement letter the same day and also left Wednesday. She began with the city in August 1984.

She thanked Deputy City Manager Agapito Bernal and the “whole team” for providing her with a “wonderful workplace environment.”

JoAnn Samaniego

“I have no doubts that the purchasing department and City of Odessa will keep reaching new heights with such an incredible group of people working together,” she wrote.

John Scott Anderson also turned in his retirement papers Jan. 17. In his notice, he thanked City Manager John Beckmeyer for all of the opportunities he was afforded while working for the city.

“After 35 years of service to the organization and the citizens of Odessa, I feel it is time to move to the next phase of life,” Anderson wrote.

Anderson said he planned to help with any transition his final two weeks. However, he was not given that opportunity.

John Scott Anderson

“The City of Odessa accepts your resignation,” Bernal wrote in a memo to Anderson on Jan. 19. “Per Texas Workforce Commission policy, however, we have elected to terminate your employment at an earlier point within that two-week window without changing the nature of the separation.”

Bernal told him that day would be his last day, but he’d be paid through Feb. 1. He also informed him he’d be eligible for rehire since he provided proper notice.

Bernal thanked him for his service and wished him the best.

Bernal told Beckmeyer he offered Anderson a reception to celebrate his retirement, but Anderson declined.

The three departures are just the latest in a string of departures since January 2023.

Twenty-one of the city’s 38 departments have seen a change at the top since the City Council terminated the contracts of City Manager Michael Marrero and City Attorney Natasha Brooks in December 2022.

Some retired, others quit and a handful were fired.

In a late November interview, Beckmeyer said he wasn’t concerned so many have left.

“I actually don’t see it as a bad thing and it’s nothing personal or anything degrading or anything like that from the older department heads,” Beckmeyer said. “Sometimes it’s actually a good thing, I believe, to get new eyes looking at situations. I don’t look at it as a downside and I also see the quality of the department heads we have now.”

While it’s true the city lost a lot of experience and institutional knowledge over the last year, Beckmeyer said the depth of experience under most of the department heads is impressive and that has helped a great deal with the changes.

The city has 73 employees who have been employed by the city for at least 20 years.