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By Henrietta J. Burroughs                    Follow East Palo Alto Today on
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July 24, 2014                                 
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The East Palo Alto City Council decided that it will select an interim city manager to replace Magda Gonzáles, the city’s current city manager, when her contract runs out this October. Council members also decided that the city will seek the services of an executive firm to find a permanent manager for the position.

The council reached its decision during a special council meeting that was held on Tuesday, July 22. After exploring several different options during the meeting for finding a permanent city manager, the council voted three to two to have the city’s HR department post a job listing to advertise that the city is seeking an interim city manager.

Mayor Laura Martinez announced publicly at the council’s regular meeting on July 16 that the council would seek a replacement for Gonzáles.  At its special Tuesday meeting this week, the council agreed to accept applications for the interim city manager position from interested city staff members as well as from candidates who might come from outside the city

Before the council's vote Tuesday, Council member Ruben Abrica contended that the council should assume the responsibility of recruiting an interim city manager rather than give the task to an executive search firm. He said that the council could advertise the job vacancy and then interview the candidates, who responded to the advertisement in September after the council returned from its August summer break.

If the council could not decide on an interim city manager following its interviews, then Abrica said that it should seek the services of the recruitment firm, which would also be chosen to assist the council in its search for a permanent city manager.

Before Abrica made a formal motion that included his recommendations, Council member Larry Moody urged that the council seek the services of a search firm to assist the city in filling the interim city manager position. He said that he did not think that he, personally, had the skill set to ask the necessary questions that involved current city projects such as “public works or development projects, the lining up of grants and [those affecting] the police department.”

He said that an executive search firm is designed to do just that and would make the load lighter for the council. Moody described the city’s human resources department as overloaded and a little unstable and suggested that the council be mindful of these factors and do everything possible to help the staff fill the city’s two top open positions: the chief of police and the soon-to-be vacant city manager position.

Council member Donna Rutherford agreed with Abrica. She said, that the council is here to make decisions and can’t make excuses about doing its part. “I know we can do that.. formulating some questions. It’s not really that hard to do. It’s not that difficult to appoint someone for a period of time and then hire a search firm to do the other part of the process.”

Vice Mayor Lisa Yarbrough-Gauthier stopped short of saying that the city was in “crisis mode,” but she said,  “We need to make some really hard decisions to keep our city going.” She said that the city needed “to heal and keep going forward to get those projects done, because we can’t wait until the last minute… We have some critical positions that we need to get filled,” she said.

Abrica's motion was seconded by Rutherford and approved by Abrica, Rutherford and Yarbrough-Gauthier. Martinez and Moody voted no.

After the motion passed, John Nagel, the city attorney inquired of the council whether the solicitation for the city manager’s position would be handled in the same way that the recruitment is being handled in the search for a new city police chief; namely, that after the council's interviews and selection of finalists, there would be a community panel to interview the finalists and a community meet and greet. The council confirmed that the recruitment for the city manager’s position would be handled in the same way.

 

This article was written by Henrietta J. Burroughs. To contact the author, send an email to epatoday@epatoday.org.

 

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