Following his resignation earlier this week, Port Chester Village Manager Chris Russo said his desire to move to Florida and return to city management is due to his frustration with the "pace of change" in Port Chester.
Russo seems to feel helping to run a larger municipality is better, or easier. "You can make decisions quicker, move quicker, get things done quicker" Russo told The Journal News.
But it's surprising to hear Russo so unaffected about leaving when many believe his leadership to be pivotal to the village of Port Chester.
Why would he leave now, at at time when the village is in a transtion period with the election of a new board, and in need of his expertise?
Mayor Dennis Pilla said Russo's decision to leave is a great loss. "He was instrumental in bringing positive changes to Port Chester," he said.
Pilla said that Russo was successful at handling employee disciplinary matters, bringing them up and adjudicating them, whereas other managers never went through the formal disciplinary process.
"Chris has amassed a very impressive list of accomplishments and that has been very difficult to do in Port Chester," said Pilla, "Among them has been instituting a dedicated, independent code enforcement department and routing out problems with the parking meter collections process."
Some say Russo's decision to leave is coincidence, but Pilla believes the new board is to blame. "Things are taking longer to get done because of the degree of the new board's involvement," he said. "The prior board empowered the staff to bring in well-qualified people."
An incident that occurred at a Board of Trustees meeting about a month ago, where Russo and newly-elected Trustee Sam Terenzi had a verbal spat regarding the parking meter issue and independent contractors that would be brought in to investigate, has many wondering if there's any connection between what happened at that meeting and Russo's seemingly abrupt decision to leave.
Regardless of whether the incident served as a 'last straw' for Russo, Pilla believes that the new board is at fault. "This is a warning sign to the new board," he said.
Terenzi disagrees: "Pilla knew Chris was thinking about leaving for over a month, long before the supposed exchange happened."
The heated discussion with Russo was just a conversation, he said, and they are on good terms.
"Back when I was controller, Chris and I would talk about the village's finances, and he went on to implement a lot of the things we talked about," he said.
In response to Pilla's charge regarding the "slower, less efficient" new board, Terenzi said the new board is shaking things up in a good way. "The new board is shaking the trees a little bit and whatever falls out, falls out," he said.
According to Terenzi, the former board sat back and allowed a lot of things to deteriorate, like the promenade, which is falling into the water, and the sewer system, in need of repair. He feels there's a lot of work to be done getting the village's finances in order and picking up the old board's slack.
"We're not sitting down and yessing everyone to death," said Terenzi, "We feel strongly about the village's finances and we're going to identify people who are incompetent or who aren't doing what they're supposed to."
Speculation as to why Russo is stepping down now, a year before his contract was set to end, has been all over the map, but perhaps the most off-beat, yet credible tidbit of information involves a special someone: Russo's girlfriend lives in Florida.