Feeney Returns After Eight Months Away As Assistant City Manager

Ashley Feeney

In April, Community Development Director Ashley Feeney announced he was leaving his post after a little over two years with the city of Davis to pursue opportunities in the private sector.  At the time, the city tapped the well-respected Heidi Tchsudin as the interim Community Development Director as the city looked for a permanent replacement.

That search has ironically led the city back where they started, as on Friday, they announced they were naming Ashley Feeney back into the role he left eight months ago – with added responsibility.

His new role is that of Assistant City Manager and he will be charged with overseeing Community & Economic Development for the City.

The second assistant city manager position had been vacant since Mike Webb was promoted to City Manager last fall to replace Dirk Brazil.

In addition, by expanding Mr. Feeney’s role to take the lead on economic development, the city is signaling it is serious about fully realizing the city’s potential in that regard.

Mr. Feeney had served the city from March 2016 to April 2018 and in December 2017, he was named Community Development Director to replace Mr. Webb.  In this new role, Mr. Feeney will be responsible for overseeing the Community Development Department but will also be the City’s lead on economic development, the city announced in a statement.

Mr. Feeney has prior experience both with the City of Davis and in various executive leadership roles in private real estate development. During his tenure with the City, Feeney led efforts to develop the local cannabis regulatory framework. He was also at the forefront of the City review and consideration of several key proposals and long range planning efforts, including the Hyatt House and Residence Inn hotels, multiple housing and mixed use proposals, review of the UC Davis Long Range Development Plan, and the kick-off of the Downtown Plan update.

“Through his experience in planning, environmental review, community engagement, design, economics, real estate, construction, and team leadership, Mr. Feeney brings a unique and well-rounded perspective of local community development,” the city’s press release indicated.

Moreover, Mr. Feeney will put his expertise to work to spearhead local economic development initiatives, including the honing and implementation of a City economic development strategy. Mr. Feeney will also be key in the implementation of strategic partnerships identified in the MOU recently reached with UC Davis, the city added.

“Mr. Feeney will be the City’s face to economic development and will be key to advancing economic development initiatives that are in keeping with City Council policy direction and Davis values,” says City Manager Mike Webb.

Mr. Feeney will report directly to the City Manager and will partner with the Director of Business and Community Engagement, Diane Parro, who will focus on strategic communications and business relations.

“The opportunity to come back and serve the City in an expanded role is very exciting. Davis is recognized as a highly-desirable city which has been shaped through a history of community members that care deeply about the place they live, work and play. Davis is unique and has a lot to offer and I look forward to joining Mr. Webb, my colleagues, and the community in advancing City Council goals and initiatives.  I have a great sense of optimism for the years ahead,” says Ashley Feeney.

“His even-keeled approach and keen ability to facilitate discussion amongst a wide range of interests, combined with his passion for high-quality design, creating inviting and vibrant public spaces, and expertise in project economics, augment the City team,” the press release stated.

“Mr. Feeney has proven himself as a caring and thoughtful leader, with an open and welcoming leadership style, as well as a pro-active and creative problem solver with strong analytic and consensus-building skills.”

Mr. Feeney is a graduate of Humboldt State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. Mr. Feeney has long-established roots in the Sacramento Valley and along with his wife Cynthia, has two sons.

Mr. Feeney will begin in his new capacity effective December 17, 2018.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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  1. John D

    Great news!   This is just the type of experience the City needs to help usher in the major new investments and development projects currently in planning.

    Smart move and a good fit for the community.

  2. PhilColeman

    By any standard of measurement, a public leadership official who leaves an organization and then promptly returns is peculiar. The fellow left his old job obviously due to some level of dissatisfaction. He comes back to the same job–and also given another high-level role as a “welcome back” gift, and nobody in City Hall feels the need to explain to the public they serve.

    There appears to be a blend of editorial comment and City press release. It’s confusing to the reader which is which. Quoted remarks are probably from the press release, yet there are other comments that have the same  press release tone but contain no quotations.

    A remedy would be to italicise any press release wording and editorial comment could be in standard font.

    1. David Greenwald

      Fair point on the confusion. I tried to use quotes from the press release when the information was what you might call editorial content and leave purely factual information as is.

      On the other, when he left, he told me that he considered the opportunity to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for him. He actually liked working in the city of Davis, but felt the opportunity was too good to turn down. I didn’t ask, but I think it would be fair to read between the lines that the opportunity did not turn out as he had hoped. There will be some language in the contract that binds him here more or less for five years – I haven’t seen that language, but I understand he is basically making the commitment at this point to stay in the public sector.

        1. David Greenwald

          Current salary – $175,880.80. He’s now Assistant City Manager, before he was just Planning Director. Looks like $148K as Community Development Director.

  3. Matt Williams

    As a person and as a professional I respect Ash Feeney.  Davis could do a whole lot worse, and finding someone who is likely to be better would be an arduous process … with no guaranteed positive outcome.  So I support this hire.

    With that said, the hiring will not change the fundamental reality that our community faces.  Back on September 11th Councilmember Will Arnold said the following at the public check-in of the General Plan update process, “My biggest question I think is the biggest question that remains for everyone – how do we get from here to there?  That seems always to be the central question when we do these type of plans.”

    That is not a question that will/can be answered by a single person or a single hire.  Getting from here to there requires community engagement.  If Ash Feeney can orchestrate that community engagement, then his hiring will have been a bargain.

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