The $40,000 pay cut would have been fine with him.
What turned Noel Montesa off the elected position as treasurer of Manassas Park, he said, was what he saw at City Hall.
Eight days after Montesa, 45, won the city's special election May 4, he announced that he would not take the $55,000-a-year job.
"It was something I wanted to do," Montesa said. But "my probability of failure was pretty high."
Montesa said he faced a City Council that didn't give the level of support and autonomy that he would need to succeed, a treasurer's office gripped by low morale, and the sudden resignation of his would-be chief deputy treasurer, Julie Kieffer.
Montesa's resignation is the latest twist in an ongoing struggle to fill Manassas Park's treasurer position. Ever since Linda Adams, a part-time cashier at Giant, stepped down as treasurer during her elected term in February 2000, the office has had a revolving door.
"It takes a very special person to interact and provide customer service, and because of the nature of the job, they need that background of accounting and economics," Vice Mayor Kevin P. Brendel said. "Then when you weigh that against what the state says the salary should be, it's not a very appealing job."
Last fall, the City Council discussed changing the post from an elected office to a hired position. Then-Mayor William Treuting (I) filed a petition to put the item to vote May 4, but the required signatures were never collected.
Montesa, who has 27 years of financial experience, said he will remain as finance director for the American Roentgen Ray Society in Leesburg, a job he was prepared to quit to become treasurer. He said the final straw came May 12 when Kieffer quit.
"I needed [her] for those first six months of transition," he said. "She was my guarantee to success."
Even before he was elected, Montesa said he began to have serious doubts about the job. At a City Council meeting April 21, Montesa said he was unfairly denied a chance to speak.
"The rationale was, I was a candidate grandstanding in front of the camera," said Montesa, who was unopposed in the special election. "That was the first time I got really turned off."
Brendel said the City Council had no choice because, under meeting rules, candidates cannot speak outside of citizens time unless they already hold an office or are city employees. Montesa was told as much at the time, Brendel said.
Montesa said he learned after the election that City Council members considered cutting back staffing in the treasurer's office because of budget concerns. Montesa said he didn't understand why he wasn't part of that discussion.
Brendel said the City Council was forced to put "everything on the table" in the budget process because Manassas Park had a $700,000 deficit. A hiring freeze was placed on the treasurer's office, but in the end, the city funded it "exactly the way both [Eric Edmonson, the acting interim treasurer, and Montesa] said it needed to be run," he said. Edmonson will interim treasurer at least until another special election is held in November.
Brendel said that Montesa was fully aware of the budget considerations and that he was communicating with Mayor-elect F.C. "Frank" Jones Jr. (R) by e-mail at the time.
Either way, Montesa said he became "disgusted."
"I no longer had the stability that I needed," he said. "I'm so new to the City Hall issue, anything can blindside me. Who really are my friends? I just wasn't sure anymore, and I wasn't going to go into a situation where my probability of success was around 10 percent."
Brendel and others said they're disappointed.
"He had a lot of very good credentials, and we're not getting the benefit of it," Brendel said.
Treuting called Montesa "an ideal candidate" for treasurer and said he disagreed with council members' decision to keep Montesa from speaking before them as a candidate.
"There were a lot of ideas that Noel had and he didn't feel that people would even listen to or consider them," Treuting said. "It wasn't clear if that was part of the budget process or, 'I just don't want to talk to Noel.' "
Jones said Montesa shouldn't blame the city for his personal decision.
"I don't buy that for a minute," Jones said. "He got the staffing he asked for. . . . When he accepted the [Republican] Party's nomination and ran with it, he made a commitment to the citizens. It would be the same as me leaving now."
Such circumstances are rare in Virginia, said Jean Jensen, secretary of the state's Board of Elections in Richmond. When someone decides not to take office, it's almost always because of health reasons, she said.
"Between the time the person decides if they want to run, then goes through the mechanics of what it takes to get on the ballot -- sometimes people's life situations change," she said. Montesa's is "an unusual enough reason that I don't ever remember anything along those lines happening."
Montesa said he wanted to apologize to the 429 people who voted for him.
"I'm disappointed and ashamed," he said. "I want to say 'sorry' to the 429 people who thought I was qualified . . . because those are the people who I'm disappointing. But I just couldn't do it. . . . When I play a game, I want to play to win."