The Monterey Peninsula's loss is about to become the Village of Poynette, Wisconsin's gain.
Seaside City Manager Craig Malin announced today, June 25, that his final day leading the diverse, dynamic city will be Aug. 31.
And he did it with his usual flair for writing.
In a letter to Mayor Ian Oglesby and the City Council, Malin, who was hired as city manager in 2015, writes that he has been separated from his family, who remained in Iowa while he worked in California, for too long. And it's time for that separation to end.
The letter continues:
"Through the spirited work of many, Seaside has transformed itself in the past few years. We emerged, ahead of schedule, off probation from our insurance provider. We traded votes of no confidence in police leadership to regional leadership on contemporary community safety and a vote of our police chief to statewide leadership. We set aside an ill-conceived project, disrespectful of our remarkable landscape, for the community-crafted and widely-supported Campus Town project.
"We propelled a downtown forward, threw off the shackles of FORA, invested in parks and streets like never before, and built fiscal strength and fund balance while doing so. We've secured approval to stop wasting precious potable water on a golf course, and have used that golf course for community benefit. We've helped the homeless, fed the hungry, started making power from the sun and restored City Hall to its dazzling, mid-century swank. We bought a BMW instead of a Yamaha Niken or Zero FXS for a police motorcycle because…well, no place is perfect."
Malin arrived to Seaside after a less-than-pleasant departure from Davenport, Iowa, where he had been city administrator for nearly 14 years. On his website, craigmalin.info, in a post labeled "The Dismantling," he writes that he might have remained with Davenport ("a sublime place to raise the kids") for the whole of his career, but a funny thing happened en route.
"I won't go on at length about the travails of the job…my suggestion is you might think better of applying if your life hasn't included substantial challenges on the way here," the post reads. "A Midwest city transitioning from manufacturing, overseen by 11 running for office constantly due to two-year terms, is neither a stable nor starter job. Add in indifference to urban issues from the state capital and a newspaper controlled by folks who sleep in the next town over, and you'll have your work cut out for you."
About that newspaper: Malin sued the Quad-City Times, claiming the paper published "objectively and knowingly false" articles between June 18, 2015 and June 29, 2015, about him and a deal to grade the lot at a privately owned casino. The mayor called for Malin to resign.
While a jury in 2019 ruled in favor of the newspaper, Malin has appealed and filed a second lawsuit, "after refusing their corporate hush money," Malin says. They tried to pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle the first suit, he says, but they wanted to do it without correcting any of their reporting and with a confidentiality agreement in place, something Malin describes as "antithetical" to his understanding of journalism.
Seaside is on the verge of explosive growth, as the city works on development deals to build housing, retail, hotels and entertainment on land it absorbed from the former Fort Ord. He saw one of those deals, the Main Gate project, collapse under its own weight and amidst a lawsuit from a group calling itself The Committee for Sound Water and Land Development on Fort Ord.
The group filed a suit against Seaside, the council and KB Bakewell Seaside Venture II (aka, developer Danny Bakewell), asking a judge to set aside the environmental impact report prepared for Bakewell's years-in-the-making Campus Town project. The writ also asked a judge to revoke the construction approvals, premised on the idea that Seaside failed to properly address the environmental impacts of the massive development. Through a series of errors that included a lawyer naming the anonymous client in an email to the city, the client was revealed to be the Main Gate developer.
Of his time with Seaside, and when asked what he's most proud of, Malin responds, "I try not to be proud, because there's zero utility in pride.
"I try to be grateful instead," he says, "and I'm grateful for the opportunity Seaside gave me. We faced a number of challenges when I arrived and with the help of many, many people, we set those challenges in the rearview mirror and we have an extraordinarily powerful future."
His recommendation for whoever follows him in the job: "Provide safety for staff who are innovating and take the blame when it goes wrong."