Riverside Hires New City Manager
A month after firing top administrator John Russo, the City of Riverside has selected a new executive to lead the city.
Riverside’s new city manager is a familiar face. Al Zelinka has worked for the city for the past six years, spending the last three as assistant city manager. Before that, he served as Community Development Director.
Zelinka previously worked for Fullerton, Newport Beach, Phoenix, and the Bureau of Land Management. He’s a published co-author and an expert in urban planning with a Master of Regional Planning from Cornell University. He is also a Past President of the California Planning Roundtable.
“I am humbled that the City’s elected leadership has entrusted me with such a critical job and to endeavor on their behalf to realize Riverside’s promise and potential,” Zelinka said. “I look forward to working in partnership with the City’s elected leadership, and in cooperation with its strong business community and its active and diverse neighborhood groups, toward consensus and constructive solutions on the major issues facing Riverside.”
Mayor Rusty Bailey called Zelinka an “excellent choice” for city manager.
“We must balance our excitement over our recent economic development successes with a prudent level of concern over upcoming challenges, including the City’s unfunded pension obligations,” he added.
Former City Manager John Russo’s generous earnings were a major source of contention for the city and ultimately cost him his job. The latest contract the city approved for Russo left him with $471,000 in pay and benefits in addition to a $675,000 low-interest home loan.
Zelinka’s contract will be voted on Tuesday. But a provisional offer approved by the city council puts his annual pay and benefits somewhere between $231,237 and $415,988.
A proposed cap on compensation for Riverside city managers won’t apply to the incoming city manager but it might affect other high-ranking city officials — if it passes.
That’s the impact of the City Council’s Tuesday, May 22, vote on the proposed policy that Riverside city managers can’t receive pay and benefits higher than the California governor.
With a 6-1 vote, the council instead directed the Finance Committee to review salary schedules for at-will employees.
Councilman Mike Soubirous, who has been pushing to cap pay city managers’ pay at that level — about $274,000 per year — voted no. It was important, Soubirous said, that the limit apply to the person expected to start soon as city manager, which wouldn’t be possible if the idea was sent to a committee for more discussion.
Once the final contract is approved, Zelinka will take the reins from Lee McDougal who has been serving as interim city manager since Russo’s firing.