St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe says he was outnumbered at a council vote that saw the city part ways with city manager Bob Smart.

In a private vote just before Monday's public meeting, council rejected a two-year extension to Smart's contract, which expires this month.

Smart has come under fire in the past for his management style, which employees have linked to morale problems — but O'Keefe wanted him to stay at the helm of the city's administration.

“He was one of the best we had," O'Keefe said in an interview.

"He took a lot of initiatives on behalf of the city. He has reorganized the corporate body of city hall."

O'Keefe said he was frustrated that none of the other councillors would give a reason why they wanted Smart out.

"None. I asked several times why and I was greeted by silence," he told CBC News.

Different direction needed: councillor

It's not known which issues prompted councillors, who have received heavy complaints this winter about snowclearing among other matters, to make their decision. 

Coun. Jonathan Galgay, who voted against the extension, would say little when asked about Smart's departure.

"All I will say on the matter, personally speaking, I see the city moving in a different direction and I look forward to the recruitment process to begin immediately to get a new city manager," Galgay said.

O'Keefe said it will take two months to recruit a new city manager.

Neil Martin, a deputy city manager and the city clerk, has taken over as interim city manager until a new manager is hired.