City to Look for External Candidate For City Manager

Davis-city_hallOn Friday evening at 5 pm, the Davis City Council for the first time formally met to discuss the interim replacement for City Manager Steve Pinkerton, who last week formally accepted the job offer to become General Manager at Incline Village.  Mr. Pinkerton announced that his last day will be April 28, 2014.

The council met behind closed doors to discuss the personnel matter and establish the ground rules for (A) replacing Mr. Pinkerton with an interim city manager and (B) selecting a permanent replacement.

On Monday, the city released a statement through City Attorney Harriet Steiner.  The statement read, “The Davis City Council met in closed session Friday evening to discuss the  recruitment of a city manager to replace Steve Pinkerton.  The Council also discussed the appointment of an interim city manager for the period between the end of April, when Steve Pinkerton is leaving to take a new position in Incline Village, and the appointment of a new city manager.”

Ms. Steiner continued, “The Council unanimously reached the following decisions:  The Council determined to engage a search firm for assistance in hiring the new city manager.   The Council directed staff to bring back to them, preferably at the February 25, 2014 council meeting, a proposed contract to engage Ralph Anderson & Associates, which is the same search firm the Council used to engage Steve Pinkerton.  Using the same firm will expedite the process as the recruiter and the search firm are familiar with the City and its goals and objectives.”

“The Council also determined that, in light of the upcoming June election, the recruitment process  could start as soon as possible, but the final decision to hire a new city manager would  be made after the June election,” she said, thus allowing at least one new councilmember who will be elected in June to have a say in who the next permanent city manager will be.

Finally, she said, “The Council determined that its preference is to engage an interim city manager who is not a current city employee.   The Council has directed staff to reach out to  potential  external candidates and to seek input for possible interim candidates from the search firm.   The Council would like to meet candidates in the next few weeks with the goal of having a qualified person on board before Steve Pinkerton leaves.”

She added, “This process and  time line will assist in a smooth transition to an interim city manager and then to the appointment of a new city manager after the June election.”

By going the external route, the city is acknowledging that whoever becomes the interim city manager, will not be hired to be the full time city manager.  Generally speaking, candidates for interim city manager would be retired annuitants.

A retired annuitant is a retiree who is hired by either a former employer or a new employer that participates in the same retirement system as the former employer.  CalPERS has very strict rules guiding retired annuitants, due to previous abuses where retired employees would “double-dip.”

The retired annuitant would not acquire any additional service time and your temporary employment cannot exceed 960 hours, or just under six months.

In short, if the city brings on a retired annuitant to fill the interim position, they are committing to have a new city manager in place by October.

As we noted last week, most of the senior staff in the city is already tied up with critical work, and we argued that a short-timer, one who has no stake in the game and could step in from the end of April until September or October when the city can hire a permanent city manager, would be able to take on some additional tough issues without having to worry about upsetting the power structure, losing their job or not getting hired permanently.

An internal pick would likely take the position with the thought in mind of being permanent city manager, and that would make them vulnerable to internal and community pressure.

On the other hand, in a piece written by key business leaders, Jennifer Nitzkowski, Michael Bisch and Alan Humason on Sunday, they argued, “The person at the helm of the City’s affairs must have a firm understanding of our community, proven leadership and problem solving skills, innovative thinking, a command of public relations, and the will to practice transparent governance; all other qualities pale in comparison.”

They add, “We need a City Manager who will keep Councilmembers focused on adopting and implementing solutions to the primary fiscal and economic challenges we face and will work to prevent the City Council from being distracted by less pressing matters.”

They conclude, “Creating and fostering a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable community is a challenging endeavor. The Davis Chamber of Commerce, Davis Downtown, the Yolo County Visitors Bureau and the entire business community stand ready, willing and able to work collaboratively with all stakeholder groups to overcome today’s challenges while planning for a bright future for our deserving community.”

But first the city has to get there, and that requires finding someone who can lead the city in the interim period.  The council has selected a process to go forward, it would appear, with an external pick and, in the next few weeks, we will have a more focused idea of what that looks like.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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5 Comments

  1. Matt Williams

    It is good that the Council is moving quickly to address both the long term and short term City Manager challenges. The decisions described in the City Attorney’s statement with respect to the long range approach make a great deal of sense.

    With that said, I am concerned that the short term approach with respect to filling the Interim City Manager may be more problematic. It may be a tall order to find an available retired annuitant who has the right mix of skills, a knowledge of the City of Davis, and can come up to speed very quickly. It would be very bad if we had to settle for a “place holder” as ICM because there is no one from the outside who can jump right into Stee Pinkerton’s shoes .

    I encourage the Council not to lose sight of the very well thought out statement by the Chamber of Commerce, Yolo Vistors Bureau, and Davis Downtown leaders. They do a very good job of describing the importance of the next few months.

    On Friday prior to the closed session City Council meeting to discuss the Interim City Manager / City Manager situation, I sent all five Council members the following e-mail, which addresses many of the same issues that Jennifer, Alan and Michael addressed in their OpEd. If the Council finds that the outside candidate list is wanting, then I encourage them to revisit internal candidates.

    .

    [Joe] [Rochelle] [Dan] [Brett] [Lucas], as you and your fellow Council members consider the Interim City Manager decision, I would like to state my firm conviction that Rob White is not only the best internal choice as the Interim City Manager (ICM), but also the best ICM candidate period.

    Interestingly enough when I was talking about the ICM possibilities with someone yesterday, their criticism of Rob was that “He is too new.” Today I processed that comment together with the “go to the outside” theme of the Davis Vanguard article on the ICM alternatives, and it became clear to me that Rob White is simultaneously an outside person (too new = outside) and a person who already has a considerable body of knowledge about the major challenges facing the City. If Rob is willing to specifically eliminate himself from the permanent CM candidate list, he would appear to be an ideal candidate who could help us “not miss a beat” in continuing the progress Steve Pinkerton has achieved in his two and a half years, without any of the distractions of worrying about his permanent CM candidacy.

    That leads us to the very important “running point for economic development” issue that some have raised, specifically wanting to be sure that Rob’s focus on that isn’t diluted. I think Jeff Boone hit the nail on the head when he asked on the Vanguard, “would Rob be more or less effective in moving economic development forward if he were in the role of the interim city manager? The more I ponder that question, the more I find myself believing that Rob will actually be more effective in that role if he is ICM.

    Since he has arrived Rob has to follow the a multi-step economic development process, (a) research the issues, (b) formulate the strategy and tactics, (c) bring Steve to a level of comfort on the formulated strategy and tactics, (d) then in many cases practice “hurry up and wait” while Steve runs them up the flagpole with the Council members, and (e) move forward when the Council sees the wisdom of translating Rob’s formulations into policy directives.

    As the ICM, the natural inefficiencies inherent in step (c) and step (d) will be mitigated/eliminated, and as a result the City’s economic development efforts will be more nimble, more efficient, and whenever the City Manager is asked a question about economic development they will get the best possible answer from the best possible spokesman.

    If Rob were currently doing bedrock research into where the City should possibly go (as he was doing in early 2013 shortly after his arrival in Davis), then I would be much more concerned about tearing him away from what he is doing. However, anyone who watched Item 7 on Tuesday night clearly saw just how effective a messenger and communicator Rob is. Having an ICM with those skills and abilities and insight would be a major step forward for the City in my opinion.

    In addition, with Rob in the ICM slot, Council could immediately begin the process of looking for a permanent City Manager knowing that when you completed that search, Rob White’s title would revert back to being solely Chief Innovation Officer, and that economic development would continue on its very positive upward trajectory … a trajectory that is totally consistent with Davis’ community character … a trajectory that builds on the core competencies of the Davis/UCD/Yolo community, education/research and agriculture.

    I realize that this is only my personal opinion, but it is a well-considered and heart-felt one, and I wanted to share it with you and your fellow Council members.

    All my best.

    Matt Williams

    1. hpierce

      I can think of at least four retired annuitants who know the City well, and could do a credible job. Unfortunately all four are too intelligent to accept the position.

      1. Matt Williams

        Unfortunately all four are too intelligent to accept the position.

        You have summed up my concern very well. A friend of mine sent an e-mail to the person that some sources had as Pinkerton’s first choice. The response my friend got was, “Hi XXX, Yes, I know about Steve and no I’m not interested in the interim. Thanks for asking.”

        The Council needs to be prepared in case their ICM options are painfully limited.

    2. Davis Progressive

      matt you need to give this up. the council is going to an outside source, that’s what pinkerton wants and what apparently the council majority is willing to give him. rob needs to be point on bringing in business. the new icm is going to do the dirty work in the next few months.

  2. SODA

    Would imagine Steve Pinkerton has some ideas about ICM. I think to get the tax items passed, an ICM who will be aggressive is in store…..Didn’t Steve bring in Scott Kenley?

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