LAKEWOOD – Lakewood’s chief administrative officer has resigned about a month after starting in the new position.
Julie Heather Meister abruptly resigned Tuesday without providing a reason for leaving her job, according to a newsletter from Village President Paul Serwatka sent Friday afternoon.
“I do know that in the last week or so she had communicated to myself and others that she was coping with extenuating personal matters and spoke of resigning and seeking a replacement for her position on several occasions,” Serwatka wrote in the letter, adding that he “thought the world” of her.
Meister emailed her resignation to Serwatka late Tuesday and said she relinquished her keys to Lakewood police, collected personal items not related to village business and would arrange to have her larger personal items collected next week during business hours, according to an email to the Northwest Herald by Serwatka.
The Village Board has amended the municipal code several times since June 27 in an effort to give the elected trustees, not the administration, ultimate discretion over several key positions in the village, beginning with the office of police chief.
The board also approved eliminating the village manager, deputy village manager and finance director positions, consolidating those duties into a new chief administrative officer role that Meister briefly held.
The consolidations of the three positions into one would have saved the village almost $200,000 a year, according to village documents and salary reports. At the time, both the village manager and finance director positions were vacant.
During the assessment process, Meister, a Lakewood-based financial and administrative consultant, entered into a consulting services agreement with the village to assess the structure of its administration and to recommend a better organizational model.
She earned nearly $11,000 through the consulting deal, which she donated back to the village to assist flooding victims after some severe July rainstorms.
Meister then was hired full time as the village’s new administrative leader, effective July 25, making $157,700 in salary plus benefits in an at-will employment agreement with the village. She described the position as a “working manager” who worked among the staff and made herself available to residents.
Now Lakewood officials are left scrambling to find someone who can handle both financial and managerial responsibilities at the top of their administrative roster.
Serwatka said the ideal candidate would come from a private-sector background rather than someone who has worked mostly in municipal government, aligning with the Village Board’s desire to move away from the traditional administrative form of government.
“We’re already looking at specific people and will post the opening,” Serwatka said. “We’ve known it was an experimental thing, doing things that have sort of never been done, and I want to still stick to the plan. I want to stick to the vision that we’ve had.”
Serwatka said he was unable to provide more details or speculate about the circumstances surrounding Meister’s resignation.
Meister did not respond to a request for comment Friday.