By WES FERGUSON
The Buda Economic Development Corp. parted ways with its executive director Monday night, taking his office key and telling him not to come to work the next morning.
After nearly a decade at the helm of the Buda EDC, Warren Ketteman was ousted by the corporation’s Board of Directors in a 5-0 vote with board member Antonio Sosa abstaining. Chairwoman Cathy Chilcote cited “personality conflicts” among other reasons why she pushed her fellow directors to not renew his contract.
“I know you’ve been looking for a position elsewhere, and I think we saw some emails that went out and I guess I was really surprised to see those emails because it sent a message to me that maybe mentally you were moving on or you had done all you could do here,” she said. “When I found out your contract expires at the end of September, I started processing and thinking, and I have had some board members speak to me about the fact that there might be some personality conflicts between board members and the executive director.
“Sometimes relationships just go bad,” she continued. “Sometimes there are times to move on.”
Ketteman, for his part, agreed he was ready to leave the job he held since August 2002, during a time of rapid commercial expansion and population growth for the city.
“I will concur, yes, it’s true I’ve been looking around,” he said. “That’s no secret. I was a finalist for two other positions. I would also concur that yes it is time to move on. The relationship with the board and myself is not in a good place, and I don’t think it’s salvageable. That’s why I have not come back to the board to renegotiate my contract. I think we can reach an amicable split and go our separate ways.”
Ketteman will receive a buyout package for the remainder of his contract, which was set to end Sept. 31. The board has scheduled a June 18 meeting to begin the process of replacing him.
As Monday’s meeting got under way, everyone in the room was waiting for the ax to fall even as the board took care of minor orders of business and staff updates. City Manager Kenneth Williams, an EDC board member, discussed downtown construction to replace old sewage lines and the new Microtel hotel being erected near Cabela’s. Ketteman rattled through his recommendation for a sales tax audit and an update to board members on a potential “Buy Local” promotional campaign, among other thoughts and announcements.
The board members then voted to hire an attorney, Charlie Zech, as special counsel at the urging of Chilcote, who said the EDC’s regular attorney had a strong relationship with Ketteman but did not adequately represent the board. Then, as Zech took his seat at the table, the directors began talking about Ketteman’s removal.
Sosa left the boardroom when the members were preparing to vote. When he found out they were waiting on him to cast his yea or nay, he tried to leave again before announcing that he would abstain.
“I’m upset as I can be. I’m totally surprised by this,” he said. “Warren has not done the wrongs that we’re conniving here. I believe in what he was doing and I still do. He had an excellent record.”
Sosa said he is the “last of the Mohicans” as a supporter of Ketteman and seemed to accuse his fellow directors of colluding to remove the director.
“I was out of the loop,” he said. “Y’all knew about it. I never knew. I can see my goose is on the chopping block too.”
Ketteman was a finalist for economic development director jobs in Marble Falls and Bastrop last August but was ultimately passed over for both positions. In less than a decade in Buda, he facilitated major infrastructure improvements, helped usher through a contentious bid to bring a U.S. Foods distribution center to town and ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Sandra Tenorio from the Buda City Council in 2009. Tenorio also sits on the EDC Board of Directors and voted not to renew his contract.
Chilcote, who also serves on the Buda City Council, told Ketteman he has been an asset to the city.
“You were here when Buda was just a little baby growing and bursting, and now here we are,” she said. “You will always be appreciated for what you have done here.”
After some confusion the board members made it clear they did not intend to also remove the EDC’s only other employee, administrative assistant Janet Shull.
Reached the afternoon before the meeting, Ketteman said he did not know why his employment was up for discussion on the board’s agenda.
“I’ve not had any discussion with any of the board members,” he said. “We’ll wait and see what’s up at the meeting tonight.”