After a late Executive Session at its Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023 meeting, the Des Moines City Council – by 5–2 vote – notified City Manager Michael Matthias of its intent to end his tenure as City Manager.

“As part of a Separation Agreement, Matthias has been assigned to the position of Interim Chief Economic Development Officer for the City,” the city announced.

No other statements were made or reasons given as to why this sudden decision was made by the council.

Matthias’ salary for 2022 was a reported $285,422.

In his new role, Matthias will be responsible for promoting continued economic development while also overseeing aspects of the Marina redevelopment project and other related duties.

The terms of Matthias’ new arrangement is through June 30, 2024.

The City Council voted to appoint City Attorney Tim George to fill the City Manager position on an interim basis. George has been with the City for 15 years.

“I’m confident in Tim’s ability to lead the City during the interim and assist with a smooth transition as we move into the future,” Mayor Matt Mahoney said.

Matthias began his career with Des Moines in 2014 when he was hired as the Assistant City Manager with an emphasis on Economic Development. He was selected as the City Manager in Oct., 2016. During his tenure, he played a pivotal role in fortifying the General Fund balance, elevating the City’s bond rating, securing over $30 million in grant funding, and implementing improvements to the Marina bulkhead and Redondo boardwalk. His efforts also expanded park space and laid the foundation for waterfront development and related amenities at the Marina and in Redondo.

“I want to thank Michael for his commitment to this City and the great work he has done,” Mahoney said. “He accomplished what we hired him to do. But now as we look into the future, it’s time for the City to pivot in a new direction”

Voting against the motion on how (i.e. the contract and terms) – but not whether – to terminate Matthias were councilmembers Gene Achziger and JC Harris.

City Attorney Tim George was sworn in as Interim City Manager at the end of the Nov. 9 Council meeting.

Tim George Sworn In

Achziger and Harris also voted against the motion to appoint George as the Interim City Manager.

The City will begin the process of selecting a new City Manager immediately.

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Below is video showing the City Council’s discussion about terminating Matthias and installing George after their Executive Session:

Here’s full text of the city’s Nov. 9, 2023 announcement:

7 replies on “Des Moines City Manager ousted by Council; Michael Matthias shifts to new role”

  1. This was a retirement gift of $285,422 in public money, by an irresponsible council majority. Nothing more. Business as usual.

    1. It’s going to be way way way more than that. Mahoney, Nutting, Buxton, Back et al passed a poison pill when everyone was already upset that they made him the highest paid in the state. Unless there is an out, he’s getting several more years salary after he leaves iirc. Of our $$.

  2. Michael Matthias will receive over $420,000 to be reassigned to a different position, due to an 18 month severance package approved by the city council in 2020 (a move that came late in a minute with no prior knowledge by the public or even some councilmembers).
    Honestly, this is a disgrace. There is A LOT of positive things we could do for our city with almost half a million dollars, and to give it to someone who will continue to work for the city with a salary of over $250,000 a year – under the guise of a “severance package” – is ridiculous.

    The council appointed City Attorney Tim George as interim city manager. If the council is to do fake a search and decide to hire him in a permanent role, things would be no better off than they were under Matthias. George is closely aligned with Matthias, and he has made numerous erroneous decisions as city attorney.

    Hopefully the council takes the search seriously and finds a candidate that’s knowledgeable, reasonable and transparent, but I’m not hopeful, especially when both our mayor an deputy mayor supported the 18 month severance package and have continuously praised Matthias.

    Those upset with how our city has been operating, and those wanting a serious change in Des Moines leadership, would be wise to focus their attention on 2025, at which point Mayor Mahoney, Deputy Mayor Buxton and Councilmember Steinmetz are all up for reelection.

  3. To call this a “new” role is a little disingenuous. Michael has been charged with the dual role of city manager and economic development officer for a long time. This is merely a gift to him.

    By combining those duties for so long, the city forces one job or the other to suffer and places little apparent value on either. Let him go – all the way – and begin an immediate search for two positions: a city manager to relieve the attorney of an interim role, and an economic development manager.

    When you say it’s time to move on, you move on.

  4. Has Mahoney articulated what he meant by, “it’s time for the City to pivot in a new direction,” or was that just an empty phrase?

    It is time for the City to pivot in a new direction. The first part was replacing the city manager. The next part should be replacing the mayor.

    Let’s see if the new council is serious about a new direction.

  5. So sick and tired of the cover-up going on in Des Moines city council! With a $1.7 million shortfall, he deserves to be thrown out not paid severance PLUS PLUS PLUS! He’s been nothing but a spend happy irresponsible manager with half baked ideas that this majority has bobbleheaded all along and now they want to give the farm away and sweep it under the rug! Disgraceful!

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