Marcinko moving on from city role

Marla

After four years as city manager, Marla Marcinko is resigning to become the manager of Sewickley Borough, which is in an area where she has family.

“I got the opportunity to quite literally go back home,” Marcinko said Monday.

Although originally from Arizona, Marcinko, 57, moved to western Pennsylvania in her early 20s and lived in Sewickley for seven years — while family members have lived there for 30, she said.

Her sister, her brother and a niece reside there now. It’s where her family congregates for holidays and her husband’s parents live in nearby Pittsburgh, she said.

Marcinko took the manager’s job here while Altoona was partway through its five years in the state’s Act 47 distressed municipalities program, and she helped guide it out.

That effort was among the “really good things” the fiscally conservative Marcinko did here, said Mayor Matt Pacifico.

“She had great game plan” for the Act 47 exit, said Councilwoman Christie Jordan, adding that Marcinko was a “great asset” to the city.

Marcinko will remain at her post here until March 28 and will be available after that to answer questions regarding the transition to new leadership, she said.

Deciding to leave has been difficult, and she’s been “nostalgic” as she’s prepared, Marcinko said.

“I don’t walk away from anything easily,” she said. “(But) it boils down to family.”

Council will likely discuss what to do next at its meeting Wednesday, said Councilman Bruce Kelley.

Council will probably install an interim replacement before finding a permanent one, Pacifico said.

Ideally, there would be a “seamless transition” with the interim replacement, he said.

It’s not certain whether the interim would come from the current staff, he said.

He expects that the city will look broadly for a permanent replacement, using resources such as the Pennsylvania Municipal League, the National League of Cities and municipal managers associations.

The city’s home rule charter calls for the mayor to nominate a permanent replacement. That replacement can be confirmed with a simple majority — four votes — of council, said solicitor Dan Stants. Those four can include the mayor’s vote.

If five members of council don’t vote to confirm the mayor’s nomination, a council person can nominate someone else, who would become manager if five members vote in favor of that alternative nomination. Additional nominations by the mayor would still only require four votes for confirmation.

Replacing Marcinko is a critically important decision for council, Kelley said.

Marcinko is satisfied to leave Altoona on a firm “financial footing,” with the help of that Act 47 exit — a task to which many in city government contributed, Marcinko said.

She’s not as happy with how she handled her proposal last year to use some of the city’s surplus funds on enhancement projects that some critics panned as fluff. More “outreach and engagement” with community organizations might have made clear that such efforts are critical for attracting and retaining people who can help ensure that business grows and thrives here, which in turn helps ensure that the tax base remains solid, she said.

Marcinko has been “a class act,” said Councilman Dave Butterbaugh, who said he respects the desire to be close to family as the motivation for a move.

“I appreciate the expertise she brought to the job,” Kelley said. “She has been exceptionally professional.”

“I think where she’s going, they’re getting a good manager,” Pacifico said.

“I’m sorry to see her go,” Kelley said.

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