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  Movement in Richmond City Manager Search
July 16, 2004

The City Council spent six hours yesterday interviewing four candidates for permanent city manager and two candidates for interim city manager. On July 20, the City Council will decide whether to continue evaluating one or more of the permanent candidates or negotiate a contract with one of the interim candidates.


All of the permanent candidates had significant public agency management experience, including serving as either city or county managers, or both. All had served in cities or counties larger than Richmond. Three were from out of state, and one is currently serving as city manager for a California city.


The two interim candidates also had significant experience as city or county managers, and both are currently consultants to cities or counties.


If the evaluation of the permanent candidates proceeds, a new Citizens Advisory Committee will participate. The Citizens Advisory Committee consists of one person appointed by each Council member. My appointment was Eleanor Loynd, President of the Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council. The Citizens Advisory Committee will meet today to be briefed on the process by the City’s executive search consultant, Bill Hawkins.


There have been arguments both pro and con regarding hiring a permanent city manager versus an interim manger.


If the right permanent city manager can be found, he or she could begin recruiting permanent department heads for the positions currently filled with interim appointments and could begin the reorganization of city government that will doubtless be necessary to deal effectively with the new budget realities. A permanent city manager would have a stronger hand in making changes and securing employee commitments than an interim manager.


On the other hand, the pool of applicants for the city manager position will expand substantially after the November election, as many potential candidates are deterred from applying in a situation where the City Council majority who would hire them may no longer be there 90 days later. An interim manager may be able to make and implement tough choices that are necessary but unpopular.


In any event, a city manager coming to Richmond will have to be someone who wants a challenge. I have talked to several respected city managers around the state, and they tell me that Richmond is a tough sell because it has a reputation as a city with entrenched unions, an imbedded employee culture, a fragmented City Council and a history of fiscal and program mismanagement. These perceptions may or may not be accurate, but they are widespread.