A council chief who was embroiled in a row over his pay rise has announced his retirement.
Unions were critical when it emerged that Hartlepool Council chief executive Paul Walker's salary had increased from £157,205 to £168,000.
Hartlepool's elected mayor, Stuart Drummond, paid tribute to Mr Walker, who later took a month's unpaid leave.
Mr Drummond said sharing a chief executive with a neighbouring council was one option now being considered.
Hartlepool Labour MP Iain Wright said he thought council chief executives were vital, and urged caution about a restructuring of the council at a time when he said the focus should be on frontline services.
Mr Walker's career in local government covered 40 years, and he joined Hartlepool Council in 2003. He will leave in August.
He said: "Hartlepool has a reputation nationally for punching above its weight and since the day I arrived I have always been impressed by the way that everyone who works for the council pulls together to do their best for the town and its people.
"The last couple of years have been challenging but great efforts have been made to maintain as many services as possible."
Mr Drummond said: "He is highly thought of in local government circles and he has been extremely good for the council and the town.
"We have worked very closely for the eight years he has been here and I think jointly we have managed to keep the council one of the best performing in the country."