Of the letters of resignation that newly minted Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski demanded from all of the city's department heads, at least one from Redevelopment Agency Director D.J. Baxter was accepted.
Matthew Rojas, Biskupski's director of communication, says the mayor met with Baxter and decided to move in another direction with the department that in recent years has been an active player in developing pockets of the city.
"She wanted to find someone who could really embody her vision, which is really building a city for everybody," Rojas says. "As a tool for economic development, the RDA can be incredibly helpful in fulfilling one of her priorities, which is helping revive relevance of areas west of the freeway."
The news of Baxter's departure came on the heels of several other recent appointments by the mayor, including naming of longtime Salt Lake County employee Mike Reberg as director of the Department of Public Utilities.
For the past two years, Reberg has worked as division director of Salt Lake County Animal Services—his second stint at the county in the past two decades. In the 1990s, Reberg was assistant director of public works for the county.
Reberg, who donated $600 to Biskupski's campaign, also worked from 2003-13 as the district director for former Congressman Jim Matheson, D-Utah. Now, he finds himself at the helm of a department that in 2014 employed 393 employees and generated operating revenue of $96.2 million.
Reberg will also have big shoes to fill. The department's former director Jeff Niermeyer had worked for the city's Department of Public Utilities for 25 years, spending the last nine as the director.
In addition to Reberg's jobs in government, he serves on the board of directors of Save Our Canyons, and according to the news release announcing his appointment, his work in the private sector has involved negotiating land exchanges between private land owners and Salt Lake County for river parkway systems.
Reberg is the latest in a string of county employees to join Biskupski's staff. Patrick Leary, Biskupski's chief of staff, is a former director of public works and a township executive for the county. The mayor's deputy chief of staff, David Litvack, was most recently the coordinator of the county's criminal justice advisory council.
Communications director Rojas says Biskupski is hunting for the most qualified people she can find to lead the city. That some of them come from county ranks speaks to the quality of folks working for the county, Rojas says, as well as the fact that Biskupski's most recent job was for Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder.
"She is bringing over people that she's worked with that she trusts," Rojas says.
Shortly after her mayoral victory was certified, Biskupski asked for resignation letters from 34 city employees, some of whom were working in the office of former Mayor Ralph Becker, and all of the city's appointed department heads.
Niermeyer and Jill Remington-Love, who was the director of community and economic development, left their posts prior to, or in step with, Biskupski taking office.
During her campaign, Biskupski criticized the Becker administration for not being more aggressive in stimulating economic development. At present, Rojas says Mary DeLaMare-Schaefer, who was deputy director of the department under Remington-Love, is the interim director.
Biskupski also announced that she hired Nate Salazar, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the District 4 seat on the Salt Lake City Council, as a community liaison for the mayor's office.
Rojas says other department heads have not been retained, though he declined to identify who has been sent packing.
Meanwhile, City Attorney Margaret Plane, Justice Court Director Curtis Preece and Finance Director Gina Chamness have all been retained by Biskupski.
Rojas pointed to Preece, Chamness and Plane as examples of Biskupski's willingness to retain some of the talent from past administrations.
"My office will continue to be open and transparent as we work to build a team to serve the people of Salt Lake City," Biskupski said in the prepared statement. "This is a deliberate process, and the people of Salt Lake City and city employees should know, these decisions are being made with the utmost care and will be made in a manner that ensures a smooth transition."