Moab City Manager Donna Metzler

Donna Metzler is about to make the move from city management to classroom management.

After 21 years on the job, Moab’s city manager will be stepping down next February to pursue a teaching career at Grand County High School.

Metzler informed the Moab City Council last week that Feb. 13, 2015, will be her last official day with the city. She plans to start teaching ninth and 11th grade English, as well as 11th grade honors English and creative writing, on March 2.

Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison said that Metzler gave her notice during a special Dec. 5 city council meeting.

“Basically, everybody’s mouth dropped open,” he said.

Moab City Councilman Gregg Stucki said that some officials may have assumed that Metzler would be revisiting an unrelated issue that came up during a previous executive session.

“It was a little bit of a bombshell,” he said.

Right around the time that bombshell struck, Stucki heard somebody say that everyone knew Metzler would leave the city one day.

“We all just wished it wasn’t in our lifetimes,” he said.

Metzler’s accomplishments, he said, have been “pretty amazing,” and Stucki gives her lots of credit for her behind-the-scenes work on often-difficult issues.

“The city has been doing really well fiscally and financially, and a lot of that is due to Donna’s ability to look ahead and be very conservative (with the city’s budget),” he said. “We’ve got some good momentum moving forward.”

In the wake of Metzler’s announcement, city officials formed a search committee to find a new city manager, and Sakrison is hopeful that a successor will be in place by next May or June.

The mayor anticipates the council will consider a proposal early next year to appoint someone who can serve as interim city manager.

Stucki said he’s confident that well-trained city staff members will be there to help out during that interim period.

Moving forward, he said he wants to find someone who will stay with the city over the long haul.

“We’re hoping that we can avoid turnaround and find the right person,” Stucki said.

Metzler came to the city in early 1994 from Glendale, California, where she worked as an assistant to the city manager there for about three years.

Sakrison was on the city council at the time it hired Metzler, and as time wore on, he just assumed that she would outlast him.

“I thought I’d be gone before she was,” he chuckled.

Although he’s sorry to see her go, Sakrison said he respects Metzler’s decision to move on.

“She’s done a great job for the city,” he said. “She has put our financial ship in order, and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

Metzler noted that she’s had a lot of help over the years.

“I think that the thing I’m most proud of is having been instrumental in assembling a very talented, conscientious and well-rounded city staff, and that’s an ongoing process,” she said.

Together, that team helped create a professional environment where residents feel more at ease, which isn’t always an easy thing to do, she said.

“There’s an automatic feeling of, ‘oh, I have to go to city hall,’ and making that a positive experience is a challenge.”

The Moab City Center’s 2005 move to its current location was a huge step forward in that direction, she said.

Ten years later, though, Metzler is eager to fulfill her longtime dream of working in the classroom.

“When I was younger, I always imagined myself as a teacher,” she said.

She said her focus shifted to city management when she headed off to college for the first time. But in more recent years, as her daughters made their way through the school system, Metzler said she came to realize that she has another calling in life.

“I became convinced that I needed to be involved,” she said.

She returned to college in 2012, and ever since then, she’s been balancing her studies with her full-time job – which hasn’t left her with much time to be introspective about her pending career change.

“Right now, I’m still in do-mode,” she said. “It still doesn’t seem quite real that this is happening.”

Donna Metzler plans to teach high school English