Seth Leonard will step down from the post January 28 and pass the baton temporarily to city councilor and deputy mayor Nicole Mace. She'll serve until a new mayor is elected on Town Meeting Day in March. Leonard's term would have lasted until March 2021.
Leonard said he is leaving early because he has accepted a new job as managing director of community development at the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, effective January 8. The statewide organization's work could present a conflict of interest with various mayoral decisions, Leonard said, including those pertaining to affordable housing .
"Even the concern of a conflict, I think it is important that we remove that,” Leonard told Seven Days Monday.
The Winooski mayor's job is not designed to be full-time. It pays around $1,400 a year, Leonard said. He currently works as housing programs director for Vermont and New Hampshire at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Rural Development.
Leonard said he's spoken informally to several people who might consider running for mayor, though no one has told him they are ready to step forward.
Mace told Seven Days she is not interested in running for a full term as mayor. She announced earlier this month that she would not again run for city council.
Leonard announced his decision in a press release Monday and expanded on it in an interview. He'll continue to live in the city.
"I will still be in Winooski and still be finding ways to give back as an individual,” Leonard said.
He's been mayor for four years and served as a city councilor for two years before that. He was elected — unopposed — for a third term as mayor in March.
During his tenure, Winooski updated its zoning to encourage development on gateway streets into the city. Voters approved major funding for the reconstruction of Main Street and a new municipal pool to replace the decrepit one that shut down several years ago.
The city council is currently discussing a proposed municipal budget for next year that would go up 6 percent to help fund those projects, Leonard said. Voters will have a say on the budget in March, when they could also see several ballot items.
One proposal under discussion by the city council would fund a new multistory parking garage on a city-owned lot next to the Community College of Vermont campus, Leonard said.
In recent years, competition for spots in the city's existing municipal garage has become more intense. A second garage would help ease Winooski's parking woes and would be located in the city's tax-increment financing district.
Leonard said the proposal is designed to be revenue neutral: parking fees would cover the cost of the garage. More details will be coming in a few weeks, he added.
In his statement, Leonard thanked residents for the opportunity to serve. "Winooski is a special place," he said. "Each and every day in this role, I was inspired by the tireless energy and spirit of the people of Winooski."
Mace also thanked voters for their support. "I am not going to run for mayor and am not seeking reelection to the council. I made this decision after a lot of reflection about my personal and professional commitments. I have loved serving the City of Winooski in this role and am grateful for the opportunity to do so for the past four years," she told Seven Days via email.