Santa Maria’s top librarian and the public works director have abruptly left their jobs.
Library Director Mary Housel and Public Works Director Kevin McCune reportedly were terminated last week.
City managment staff remained mum about their status for six days before confirming the departures Monday night.
“The city deeply appreciates Ms. Housel’s contributions and efforts as the city library director,” city spokesman Mark van de Kamp said this week in a written statement. “The city deeply appreciates Mr. McCune’s contributions and efforts as the city public works director.”
He added: “We do not comment on personnel matters.”
Housel has framed her departure as a retirement, albeit earlier than she had planned.
Her departure came a week after the City Council majority rejected a library proposal to create a one-month amnesty period by waiving library fines for January, drawing opposition from three members — Mayor Alice Patino, Councilwoman Etta Waterfield and Councilman Mike Cordero.
“They’re finding a way to get there. They’re finding a way to get what they want to use, but they can’t find a way to bring it back. That’s responsibility, and we’ve got to set the rules. I agree with Councilmember Cordero that we’ve got to be strong and we’ve got to set rules,” Waterfield said during the Jan. 4 meeting discussion while not wearing a mask despite a county mandate for facial coverings indoors.
Councilwoman Gloria Soto and Councilman Carlos Escobedo supported the library fine amnesty month for January, but the motion failed to gain a majority.
Six of the seven libraries within the Black Gold Cooperative Library have eliminated fines, with Santa Maria the only library within the cooperative to charge. That means someone can return an overdue item to one of the fine-free libraries in the Black Gold Cooperative Library system.
Housel arrived in June 2012 to lead the staff more than four years after the library’s 60,000-square-foot new building opened at 421 S. McClelland St.
“Serving the communities of Santa Maria, Orcutt, Guadalupe, Cuyama and Los Alamos as library director the last 10 years has been deeply rewarding,” Housel said. “I’m proud of the many accomplishments and new library programs and services that happened under my leadership.
“Libraries can change lives by offering people, and especially children, a place to learn, grow, converse, create, experience, think and connect. Being a part of that outcome for our community, and knowing the library has made a difference for someone as a result, is a gift I will always treasure.”
During her tenure, a new branch opened in Los Alamos and the bookmobile allowed the library services to be delivered to patrons.
“I was appalled that you had terminated Ms. Housel,” Jacquline MacNeil told the City Council in a written comment for Tuesday night’s meeting. “One thing I have always been so proud of was the time I served as a library trustee and worked with her to expand programs that benefited the library and the citizens of the communities served. Her leadership role in the many new library services and her work with the Library Foundation were impressive. Shame on you!!!!”
Several other people spoke out in support of Housel’s role leading the library.
McCune’s absence was discussed indirectly during a Recreation & Parks Commission meeting last week about the temporary reassignment of Brett Fulgoni, assistant director of Recreation and Parks, to the Public Works Department.
Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada said he had been told the temporary gig would last a minimum of six months.
Engineering tasks have temporarily been handed off to David Beas, principal civil engineer in the Public Works Department, to fill a slot required under the Municipal Code.
This week, a city official confirmed Fulgoni had been named interim public works director.
McCune arrived in Santa Maria in early 2019 to serve as public works director and city engineer.
The Cal Poly graduate previously worked for 19 years for the City of Lompoc, including seven years as public works director, five years as assistant public work director, five years as city engineer and two years as senior civil engineer.