Mary Rupp reflects on her time as interim city manager

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

Interim City Manager Mary Rupp's last day was Sunday, but she is staying one week longer to help the council and new City Manager Darrel Pyle with the transition as he takes office Monday.

Former Interim City Manager Mary Rupp served Norman about a year, but this wasn’t her first city manager role.

Rupp said serving in Norman has been an absolute honor, privilege and an opportunity of a lifetime. She added that it's been fun getting acquainted with the community and its history, and realizing that Norman is much more than the University of Oklahoma.

Rupp has always served in Oklahoma, but never like she has in Norman in the interim position.

“Most of my career was with the City of Stillwater, retiring in 2011 as the deputy city manager,” she said. “I came out of retirement to be city manager of the City of Perry for four years.”

In September 2018, former City Manager Steve Lewis officially left the position after 11 years,. Later that month, Rupp was appointed to fill the position in the interim.

Rupp said even though all three cities operate under a city charter, they have distinct differences on the makeup and election of the City Council.

In Stillwater, she said the council is not divided up by wards, but a five-member council is elected at large. In Perry, a nine-member council with four wards is also elected at large. Norman, of course, has an elected nine-member council representing and elected by eight wards, except for the mayor position elected at large.

While these may not seem to be big differences, she said it does influence the perspective of each community's elected officials. From her experience, those elected at large tend to look at what is better for the community as a whole, while those elected by wards have more of a tendency to focus on their neighborhood constituents.

“I am not saying one is better than another, but it does influence the decision makers and how they approach the issues in their respective community,” Rupp said.

Being interim puts a person somewhat in limbo, she said, with the nonpermanent status of the position. However, she said even though she didn’t always have the background information, she was expected to provide direction and leadership. So, relying heavily on staff was something Rupp did to get through the unique challenge.

“I knew coming in that the City Council was not always in agreement,” Rupp said. “That became evident fairly quickly when the discussion of an election for transportation and stormwater bonds — and establishing a stormwater utility — began.”

She said even though the transportation bonds issue was the only Vision for Norman items that residents passed, having the council come together was a watershed moment in Norman’s history.

Mayor Breea Clark said the council members knew how challenging they can be at times, and they were nervous that whoever they hired in the interim wouldn’t be up to the challenge. However, she said Rupp was, and it wasn’t always easy.

• 'Transition time': “I appreciated that knowledge and experience that she was able to bring to a lot of our discussions,” Clark said. “I admire her tenacity and her dedication to the job, she clearly places a high value on local government and leadership with residents and I appreciate that, and I’m grateful for all that she has done for this city during this transition time.”

As city manager, Rupp said she was most proud of her ability to work with people, and that served her well in Norman.

Knowing her time was limited in Norman, Rupp said she did her best to experience what the city has to offer in its local restaurants and other amenities.

“Norman is a very welcoming and caring community, and its diversity offers many learning opportunities for residents,” She said. “The willingness of Norman voters to invest in the community by way of school, county and city initiatives is a tribute to elected officials and community leaders.”

She said she will absolutely miss the people and many new friends she made here in Norman, but she will continue to keep up with the city.

Even though this past week was technically her last, she will be staying through this week to assist during the transition time with City Manager Darrel Pyle after he officially takes office Monday. She said Pyle is excited about this opportunity, and city staff is poised to assist him in any way possible.

“[Pyle’s] leadership will be important as he works with the mayor and council to achieve consensus on community issues,” Rupp said. “I see Darrel as someone who will be active in the community, which I believe will be well-received.”

She said Pyle is an experienced city manager, who will bring a lot to the table in guiding the city organization and working with the council.

“Leaving is bittersweet, but I will be following the progress of projects underway and nearing completion,” Rupp said in her final weekly city manager report on June 12. “I wish Darrel Pyle all the best as he begins his duties as the next city manager of Norman.”

Rupp plans to return to her family farm near Perry where she and her husband, Marvin, have made their home for most of their married life. Spending time with their kids and grandkids, and traveling is something she said she missed during her time in Norman.