Former City Manager Offers Words of Advice to Councils on the Hunt for a New City Manager

We relayed previously that it’s been a year of change for cities in Ventura County because half of the County’s 10 cities happen to be on the hunt for permanent City Managers at the same time. Consequently, half of the county’s cities are currently operating with interim managers and councils are left to make a crucial decision about who is the best candidate to lead their city. Specifically, Port Hueneme, Ventura, Fillmore, Simi Valley, and Oxnard are all on the hunt due to a spate of departures.

Former Ventura City Manager Rick Cole, who announced his decision to leave in late August, has some words of advice for the five aforementioned cities in a column he wrote for the Ventura County Star. An excerpt reads:

The "buck stops" with the city manager. And in choosing a city manager, the buck stops with the city council.

While the popularity of a city manager is sometimes a local campaign issue, the importance of careful selection of a city manager is often ignored. These days, few council members are elected with experience in hiring high-powered executives. Instead, they usually rely on a handful of recruiting firms that specialize in conducting a "search" for the right candidate.These firms are very good at what they do.

But they are no substitute for a city council doing job one: clearly and carefully defining what kind of chief executive their community and their city government will need in the next three to five years (the average tenure of a California city manager).

What's needed? Everyone on a council, of course, has a wish list. Someone with small-town experience or coastal experience or speaks Spanish. One who's skilled at promoting economic development — or balancing budgets. Who understands planning issues — or homeless concerns. Is open and accessible — or firm and decisive. Cares about parks or libraries or potholes or fill in the blank.

Typically, these individual desires are simply lumped together — which reminds you of the old joke that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.”

Read Cole’s full article here.

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