The dismissal of Dave Kanner as Ashland's city administrator seemingly came as a surprise to everyone — everyone, that is, other than Mayor John Stromberg.

Stromberg, who can, with consent of the City Council, "suspend and remove any appointive officer," used that power Monday, informing the council that he wished to part ways with City Administrator Dave Kanner. The council agreed, in a split vote, and Kanner's last day will be Nov. 30.

Stromberg does not strike us as a my-way-or-the-highway kind of mayor, which probably explains the gap between the firing and Kanner's last day as well as the cordial statements issued by both Stromberg and Kanner.

But this dismissal was cloaked in obscure platitudes: Stromberg called Kanner a "strong, effective administrator," but added, "as the city enters an era of new and different challenges, it's time for new administrative leadership."

According to reporter Julie Akins, council members spoke highly of Kanner, but "suggested with the deep divisions in the current political climate and the complexity of the issues coming forward it would be important to create a leadership more in line with those changes."

Huh? Does that mean there was a "political" issue with Kanner? That a "strong, effective administrator" was not the right fit with tough issues coming?

We don't know and neither do Ashland's residents. As the city begins its search for Kanner's replacement, it needs to clear with the candidates — and the public — about what it wants and doesn't want in an administrator.