BENTON HARBOR — Former Benton Harbor City Manager Darwin Watson saw his 23-year career with the city end the morning of Aug. 19.
That’s when he said Interim City Manager Ellis Mitchell told him he was being terminated because his position was being eliminated.
Watson, 51, was working as the public works and utilities director at the time. No announcement was made about his termination.
Watson started working for the city on Dec. 5, 1995, and worked his way up to become the public works director. He was appointed city manager by then-Emergency Manager Tony Saunders II in 2014.
While he held that position, he was also the public works director.
Watson said he’s not certain what he will do now.
“I’m kind of at a crossroads at this age, trying to start all over,” he said. “I need to have some conversations with my family to figure out what the next steps are.”
He said he would have been eligible for full retirement on Dec. 5, 2020.
Mitchell declined to comment on why he fired Watson.
This is the second time in a month that Watson was fired from the city’s employment.
City commissioners sacked Watson on July 22 and voted to have Mayor Marcus Muhammad assume the powers with no pay until an interim city manager could be found. Muhammad rehired Watson the next day as chief of staff and public works and utilities director.
On July 25, city commissioners hired Ellis Mitchell as interim city manager. Watson lost his chief of staff position but remained as the public works and utilities director.
“The hardest part of it is – there’s no reason,” he said when contacted by phone Monday. “... There was never anything said at all relative to there being an issue with my performance (as city manager).”
Muhammad was against terminating Watson from either position because there are a lot of city projects Watson was working on.
“His institutional knowledge is priceless,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a great loss to the city.”
Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege