HELENA — In an abrupt move, Helena’s city manager has announced she has resigned the position, effective immediately.
The city released a statement Friday, saying Rachel Harlow-Schalk had submitted her resignation, effective that day.
“Helena is a wonderful community with an excellent team of employees. I wish nothing but the best for its future,” Harlow-Schalk said in the statement.
A city spokesperson told MTN Harlow-Schalk was not available for additional comment.
City Commissioner Emily Dean told MTN the city manager notified them of her intentions this week.
“We’re very grateful for her service to the community," Dean said. "She stepped up as we, as a community, were dealing with the transition from responding to the COVID-19 pandemic to really living in the pandemic.”
Harlow-Schalk spent less than a year and a half with the city. She was selected for the position in August 2020 and officially started work in October 2020. Previously, she had worked as the state of Colorado’s deputy director of local government.
The city statement praised Harlow-Schalk for her “dedication to the City and diligent work to achieve the priorities of the community,” and for her work on community engagement, fiscal stability and economic development. It also included thanks from the city’s mayor and four commissioners.
“Rachel joined the City during challenging times,” Mayor Wilmot Collins said in the statement. “She repaired strained relationships with the Commission, City staff, and community partners. I wish her well in the next phase of her career.”
“I’m grateful for all of the creative solutions that she offered no matter what the challenge that was presented during her tenure," Dean told MTN. "I’m excited for her next steps in her professional and personal life, and I know she’s going to excel in whatever her next role is.”
This is the latest in a series of changes in Helena’s top administrative post. There have been two permanent city managers and several interim and acting city managers since Ron Alles stepped down in 2018. Ana Cortez served as city manager from January 2019 to February 2020. She left after reaching a separation agreement with the city.
For the moment, it appears City Attorney Thomas Jodoin will be stepping in to temporarily fill the manager role. Late Friday afternoon, the city announced the commission would consider a contract next Wednesday to make him the interim manager for one month, or until a longer-term "permanent interim city manager" can be found.
Jodoin had been set to leave the city soon, for a position with the Montana League of Cities and Towns.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to include additional quotes from Commissioner Emily Dean and information about the city's plan for an interim manager.