Earlier this year, I wrote to our Council encouraging an open recruitment and a survey to gather public input on the type of leadership, interpersonal skills and personality needed for our new city manager (CM). The letter was published in the Indy.
Thank you, City Council, for agreeing to the open recruitment and for allowing resident input. The search firm asked two specific questions: “What fit characteristics/qualities do you feel are needed in a city manager?” and “What are the current issues, challenges or opportunities do you feel the new city manager will need to be prepared to address?”
While no summary has been provided, the feedback included major concerns about the current city managers and the desire for council to find a new, untainted manager. Concerns about city hall trust and transparency, the ability to listen/work with citizens, need for creating a positive workplace, ongoing community divisiveness, the ability to work with California Coastal Commission, prioritizing our history and art, and focusing on Laguna’s neighborhoods were topics expressed by participants. This was very good input by Laguna Beach stakeholders.
If Gary Phillips, Bob Murray & Associates and our Council were listening, they should have noted the high level of dissatisfaction expressed with the performance of our current city and assistant city manager (ACM). The public can cite years of poorly planned and implemented city projects that have left us with overwhelming traffic, parking, sewer, crime, neighborhood and beach deterioration under their direct supervision when in fact they were hired to protect our coastal homes and environment, our quality of life and spend our revenue wisely.
Add staffing, finance and legal issues to the list and more lawsuits cropping up we should be at a red flag alert. Our ACM has been part of these issues and the discourse our city has lived with for the last decade. If these aren’t proof that we need a new high-level city manager with broad experience and a proven track record of dealing with and warding off potential issues to address and help us conquer our mounting problems, then I don’t know what is.
Which brings me to the final candidate “fit and ability to handle issues” criteria and qualifications. Based upon constituent input, the council can choose to move our city forward with a manager with an outstanding reputation and accomplishments, a true visionary with a personality that fits our community or we can go backward by hiring the same individual to continue business as usual. Look what that has gotten us. Let’s hire an individual that places value on a government culture of transparency, staff accountability, fiscal conservancy, and support for public engagement. I vote for a new and bold individual that owes no one except the community they serve.
MJ Abraham, Laguna Beach
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