Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield has announced that he will retire in September “for a variety of personal and professional reasons.”

Bonfield has served as city manager for 12 years. He wrote a letter to Mayor Steve Schewel and city council members on Sunday indicating his plans to step down to spend more time with his family, especially at an age that faces a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

“I turned 65 in May and officially entered one of the high-risk groups associated with COVID-19 cases,” Bonfield wrote. “I anticipate the restrictions of gatherings and crowds, even for those not in high risk, will continue to be with us for a significant time. As a leader of this organization and in the community, it is imperative that the City Manager transition back from the virtual world in which we are currently operating to active and direct engagement with employees and residents.”

“It is likely that hesitancies of my higher risk exposure will continue to limit the necessities of the job,” he added.

Bonfield began his letter by telling the mayor and council members the city and county joint “Safer at Home” order over the past five months elicited from him “an array of emotions.”

“Fear, uncertainty, confusion, frustration, optimism, and hope are just a few that I have experienced,” the wrote.

Bonfield told the elected leaders that from a professional perspective, Durham is facing a “myriad of daunting challenges.” Chief among those challenges are issues that are a consequence of the pandemic crisis, including the city’s response and recovery from the virus, as well as economic recovery.

The outgoing city manager also pointed to the implementation of racial equity initiatives, along with evaluating community safety and policing options.

Bonfield noted the city’s priorities before the pandemic: transit plans, implementing affordable housing strategies, the ongoing 100 percent renewable goals, a reduction of violent crime, and shared economic prosperity.

“It is important and imperative that the next City Manager be selected as soon as possible and a part of developing these strategies,” Bonfield wrote, “ to burdened with implementing inherited plans and strategies. The community and the City Council will be better served with a new City Manager in place.

Bonfield added that when he was hired in 2008, the city was “entering the depths of the ‘Great Recession.’” Looking back, Bonfield said he was “extremely proud” of how the city’s leadership put Durham back on the path of financial strength and strategic governance.

Bonfield, noting the long hours he worked, thanked his supportive wife Karen before writing, “it is time to recapture as much time as possible with Karen, our children and grandchildren.” His retirement is effective September 30.

Follow Durham Reporter Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to tmcdonald@indyweek.com.

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.

One reply on “Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield Will Retire in September”

  1. Great man, great manager, great family……we miss him back here in the Tampa Bay area…..have followed his career from the beginning….even the way he explained the emotions behind his decision was impressive. As a newer Manager, although old guy (I’m the same age as brother Mike), Tom’s thoughtful analysis has given me much to think about. Another sign of a great leader. Best wishes for you and Karen……hug the grandkids! Congrats on a great career.

Comments are closed.