Richmond council wants city manager to stay
By Katherine Tam
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 10/04/2010 02:59:11 PM PDT
Updated: 10/04/2010 03:09:19 PM PDT
The contract for Richmond's city manager ends in four months -- and a council majority is poised to keep him here.
City Council members and residents have lauded City Manager Bill Lindsay for his fiscal know-how that helped navigate the city through a painful recession without massive layoffs. They also appreciate his calm demeanor and professionalism.
"He's the best city manager I've known since I've lived in Richmond for 37 years," Councilman Tom Butt said. "Other city managers tended to pander to members of the council, local organizations, play favorites and do a lot of things behind the scene to curry favor. Bill Lindsay is not that kind of person. His administrative style is transparent."
There have been some rumblings about whether some council members want to renew the contract. So far, a council majority -- Butt, Nat Bates, Jeff Ritterman and Jim Rogers -- say they want Lindsay to stay. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin declined to discuss the issue, saying it's a personnel matter. Myrna Lopez and Maria Viramontes could not be reached for comment.
"He's doing a good job," Bates said. "I don't see any problems with eventually getting him a contract. It's just a matter of timing."
Lindsay's contract expires Feb. 13. The three-year deal became effective in 2008 and pays Lindsay $233,730 a year with a 5 percent annual increase starting in 2009. A provision allows a one-year extension, if that extension is approved by Nov. 13. If the contract is not extended, a separate provision is triggered that entitles Lindsay to a year's salary as severance.
It might be better, Bates said, to negotiate Lindsay's contract after the Nov. 2 election so the new council has a say. Ritterman does not think that waiting until after the election is a bad idea either, saying it might be better to shift the discussion to a nonelection year to remove politics from the equation.
Four of the seven council seats are up in the fall election. McLaughlin, Lopez, Rogers and Viramontes are seeking re-election and face opposition.
Lindsay said he would not object if the council wants to wait until after the election.
Richmond is in a different place today than it was in 2005 when Lindsay arrived at City Hall from affluent Orinda. At the time, Richmond was still reeling from the crippling $35 million budget crisis of 2004 that forced the city to lay off 300 workers and cut such public services as libraries and community centers. A state audit found poor fiscal management, inadequate controls and overspending were to blame.
Phil Batchelor, a retired Contra Costa County administrator, was brought in to fix City Hall and initiated sweeping changes. Lindsay arrived about six months later to continue steering Richmond out of financial trouble.
Lindsay hired new department leaders, among them Assistant City Manager Leslie Knight, Finance Director Jim Goins and Police Chief Chris Magnus.
Under his tenure, the city restored services that were cut, passed balanced budgets and regained a favorable bond rating. Officials completed a $101 million renovation of Civic Center. They ended a tax dispute with Chevron for now and skirted an ugly battle over rival tax measures by negotiating a deal that provides the city $114 million over 15 years.
His leadership is a big reason Richmond is in a better place, Rogers said. He described Lindsay as "no nonsense" and forthright about challenges facing the city.
Although technically one of his bosses, Ritterman said he often looks to Lindsay for leadership and lauded him for his work and work ethic.
Lindsay said he wants to stay in Richmond.
"There are a lot of challenges still in front of us," he said. "I'm certainly looking forward to hopefully when the economy recovers a bit."