With only two city managers hired in over forty years, Laguna may be a little rusty and may need to look around to find today’s best practices.
Last time, 10 years ago, the City hired a consultant “to assist in the development of the recruitment process and the evaluation of candidates.” Beyond that description in the 2010 staff report on the item, there is little detail about the specifics of the scope of the consultant’s work. How extensive was the search? What was the vetting process? What were the search criteria?
As the city website explains, Laguna operates under a Council-Manager form of government meaning the City Council provides overall policy direction and appoints a City Manager to implement the policies. There also wasn’t much of a job description in that 2010 staff report. The City has more detailed job descriptions for other city positions with detailed duties, minimum qualifications, knowledge, skills, and abilities including specifics such as ability to communicate effectively and work cooperatively. A comprehensive job description would be an important aid in the hiring process. If the job of the City Council is to provide policy direction, the job description should be clear on, among other things, who controls the agenda of items for City Council consideration. And who controls allocation of assignment of staff time to important policy issues.
It has been the practice of the Laguna Beach Unified School District to involve staff and the public in the process. The City should do the same.
A lot has changed in 40 years, including the increased emphasis on openness and transparency in government.
It’s a big job with responsibility for effective selection and management of over 280 full-time employees plus a similar number of part-time employees and management of nearly $100 million of taxpayer money. It is an opportunity to live and work in a great place, and it comes with great pay and benefits. It should be an attractive opportunity warranting an extensive search for the best candidates.
The people who live in Laguna pay a premium to be here and they deserve the best in city services.
At a minimum, an aggressive search for the best candidates is in order. But also, it is time for the staff and citizens to participate in the process.
John Thomas, Laguna Beach