Paying The Cost To Hire The Boss
Marina prepares attractive offer for new city manager.
Thursday, May 23, 2002
On Tuesday night, May 21, the Marina City Council faced a hard choice. In a growing city that needs a steady hand, the elected representatives had to decide who should be the next city manager.
From an original list of 56 candidates gathered this winter, they''d whittled the roster down to 20, then 12 people. In early May the council interviewed six candidates. Four were crossed off, leaving two. Last week, background checks were made and references were contacted. One of those people may be offered the job, though a public announcement is not expected for at least a week.
John Longley, who served as Marina City Manager for 13 years, retired early this year to manage his hometown of Porterville. Since Jan. 9, Chuck Cate has been serving as interim city manager; his contract ends on May 30. Cate, the retired manager of Calabasas, Calif., has been lauded for his performance, but he agreed when hired that his position was only temporary. The council has been recruiting since February.
Municipal hiring is a confidential personnel matter, so council members offered few specific details about the two finalists. What is known is that both are currently city managers in the western U.S.; one of them likely now runs a city in California.
The successful applicant will probably be paid considerably more than $100,000 a year.
"It''s a little more than what the city has been used to paying," says councilman Michael Morrison.
Though the council did have some sticker-shock at the salary requirements, Morrison says he''s willing to make the investment, since both finalists have demonstrated the potential to bring revenue to a rapidly-growing Marina.
"They are two special candidates," Morrison says. "Either one will do the city a great service. It''s going to be a tough decision. It''s really kind of like eeenie-meenie-minie-mo. "
Marina hired a Los Angeles-based firm that head-hunts for government officials to help fill the position. It created a three-page recruiting brochure touting Marina''s qualities and outlining the requirements of the job. Beyond the standard qualifications, Marina is looking specifically for someone with experience handling military base reuse. Marina has major plans for developing Lower Patton Park, Abrams Park and the 12th Street area of the former Fort Ord.
Councilwoman Ila Mettee-McCutchon says the council had no trouble getting to the final two, and she hopes for a unanimous vote on the final choice. "I''m very pleased with it," she says. "I personally want someone who is not too conservative, someone who''s a risk-taker."
"We are being approached weekly with ideas (for Fort Ord)," she says. "We need someone who can sort those out."
Mayor Jim Perrine notes that the former salary range for a Marina city manager was $105,000 to $110,000 and a limit has not been set for the new hire, though it will be significantly higher.
Mayor Pro Tem Howard Gustafson ticks off a long list of projects now on city drawing boards, from University Village to Abrams Park, that the new manager will be required to coordinate.
"That''s quite a load starting off," Gustafson says. "Now the impetus is to get the housing done."
Housing the city manager may turn out to be a big hurdle.
Guy Huffaker is the executive director of the California City Management Foundation. He says city managers in California can be paid anywhere from $75,000 a year in extremely small towns to over $200,000. The managers of Anaheim, Claremont and Fremont are paid in that $200,000 range.
One problem he anticipates for Marina is the high cost of housing on the Monterey Peninsula. Part of any employment arrangement for the new manager could be a housing allowance, he says. Huffaker recently retired from managing the City of Porterville, where, coincidentally, John Longley now works.
"Here [in Porterville]," he says, "$200,000 buys you one heck of a house."