CITY HALL — Wanted in Santa Monica — a new city manager who’s a creative strategist, a wizard at financial management, embraces public participation and embodies the community’s social values of affordable housing and environmental responsibility.
Those are the qualities listed on a more than two-week-old job posting on the International City/County Management Association’s Web site for the soon-to-be vacant city manager position in Santa Monica, which coupled with similar ads in other publications have drawn about 33 resumes since the application period officially opened on Sept. 9.
It’s all to replace retiring City Manager Lamont Ewell who plans to leave his post at the end of December after more than 34 years of public service and nearly four years to the day he was hired by the City Council.
“Bottom line is it has to be somebody who has the technical skills, who has the ability to work with the wide ranging community that we have and who has their eye on the horizon,” Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor said.
The position is attractive to candidates because of the various interesting projects taking place in City Hall, whether it’s bringing the Exposition Light Rail to Downtown, tackling the homeless issue or creating more affordable housing developments, said Lisa Mills, who was hired in 2006 to oversee the search process that led to the hiring of Ewell.
“They’re very focused on social issues, which some cities are but most aren’t at the level that Santa Monica is and that attracts a lot of candidates,” she said.
Mills, whose now retired firm The Mills Group was hired in 2006 to find a replacement for outgoing City Manager Susan McCarthy, was brought on again earlier this month to coordinate the management search, this time through Alliance Resource Consulting at a cost of roughly $25,000, which includes her $18,000 fee.
“I have a feel for the type of person (the council) believes will be successful in Santa Monica so I have started targeting people that I know in the industry and I think meet the similar values that the council has,” Mills said. “I have had some people say yes and one of their resumes is in.”
She expects there to be at least 60 applications by the time the filing period closes on Oct. 16. The council will screen the applications at the end of October, conduct interviews in the first two weeks of November and make a decision no later than the Dec. 8 meeting. The new city manager is expected to earn between $245,000 to $285,000 a year plus a “generous benefits package,” according to the post on the International City/County Management Association’s site.
When it comes to the new city manager, it’s clear that officials would like to see someone who reflects the familiar.
“Hopefully someone who is very much like Lamont and by that I mean is really focused on delivering great customer service to our residents as well as the people who visit and work here and who believes that having the best people in city government makes for the best city,” Councilwoman Gleam Davis said.
Davis said that three things Ewell accomplished during his tenure is hiring the very best people to manage the various city departments, initiating a real focus on customer service and bringing professionalism to the job.
Council members said they would like to see a candidate who has exhibited strong leadership skills when it comes to managing an organization, overseeing the staff and advising the council.
While there are a number of major issues brewing with regards to land use, affordable housing and homelessness, Mayor Ken Genser said the best candidate doesn’t necessarily need to have demonstrated skills in those areas but rather is effective in managing the staff that works directly on those issues.
“It’s desirable but not critical,” Genser said.