(photo by City Of Poway)

CITY HALL — With a unanimous vote, the City Council Tuesday selected Rod Gould to serve as the new city manager, City Hall’s most senior position, making him responsible for day-to-day operations and the formation of the city’s roughly $500-million budget.

Gould, 52, is currently the city manager of Poway, Calif., also known as “The City in the Country,” located in northeast San Diego County, with a population of roughly 50,000.

Gould will earn a base salary of $285,000, receive relocation assistance and be eligible for a $1.3 million loan at a fixed 3.27 percent interest rate from City Hall to help him purchase a home in Santa Monica, according to a contract approved by the council.

The selection follows a nationwide search that attracted more than 100 candidates, with the council interviewing six finalists over the past month.

“I am honored and thrilled with your appointment to serve as Santa Monica’s next city manager,” Gould told the council Tuesday night. “The more I’ve learned about Santa Monica the more I’ve been impressed with the quality and breadth and depth of the city services it provides to its residents and businesses.”

He noted the city’s leadership in areas such as sustainability, aid to the homeless and transportation.

“The vibrancy, dynamism and the civic engagement of Santa Monica makes it the most exciting city in California today,” he said.

Councilman Bobby Shriver was the only council member to express reservations, not with Gould, but with the contract approved by his colleagues, saying the council could have negotiated a more favorable contract given the current state of the economy.

“In the very unstable time that everybody’s in I think it’s a rough thing, particularly in the case of the loan, to say to other families … that this was the toughest deal we could do in this environment,” he said.

Gould will replace City Manager P. Lamont Ewell, who has served the city for the past four years, overseeing significant changes in how city services are delivered and how City Hall responds to residents and local merchants. Ewell has been praised by many community stakeholders for his ability to build bridges and craft budgets that are fiscally responsible while still providing a wide-range of programs and services.

Gould, a Pittsburgh native, has a degree in economics and political science from Yale and earned a master’s degree in education and public administration from Harvard.

He began work for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in Washington, D.C. as an analyst, and served for a year as a VISTA volunteer in San Francisco. He was also employed in operations for the Boston Housing Authority and as a consultant for Deloitte, Haskins and Sells.

Don Higginson, the mayor of Poway, called Gould a “consummate professional” who combines technical expertise with the ability to foster good working relationships.

He said Gould’s signature accomplishments during his four-year tenure in Poway were to maintain a reserve fund of more than 30 percent of the budget through the recession and to keep a large mixed-use project in the development pipeline.

“It’s a loss to us but a great gain to Santa Monica,” he said of Gould’s decision to move on.

Before becoming city manager of Poway in 2006, Gould spent more than nine years as city manager of San Rafael, five years as city manager of Monrovia, and five years as assistant city manager in Walnut Creek. While working for those cities, Gould placed an emphasis on community policing, gang prevention and traffic safety, along with a focus on streamlining operations to save cash, mixed-use planning and sustainable management practices.

This year he served on the Cities/Counties/Schools Partnership Task Force on State Budget and Fiscal Reform. During his nine years in San Rafael, he oversaw the redevelopment of their downtown and the city was awarded the 2004 Award for Advancement of Diverse Communities from the League of California Cities. Monrovia was recognized as an All-American City by the National Civic League, with Gould being known for the development of affordable housing and upgrading parks.

He served as city manager in residence at USC in 2008 and in UC Berkeley in 2000.

“The experience he’s gained throughout his career, his skill mix and focus on community engagement gives us every confidence that he is the right person at the right time for Santa Monica,” Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor said. “We look forward with enthusiasm to his joining the Santa Monica community.”

Gould and his wife, Rosaline, have two grown children, Trevor and Emily.

Poway in-depth<p>

Poway has a high standard of living and is characterized as an upper middle class community with a median family income of $78,000, according to the city’s Web site.

Within the city limits are 16,337 housing units. The city’s vacancy rate is approximately less than 2 percent. There is a broad continuum of housing options available, ranging from multi-family apartments to single-family homes on large rural parcels. Some 80 percent of the city’s housing units are single-family dwellings. The median sales price (for all recorded sales) in calendar year 2006 for a re-sale home in Poway was $658,000 according to DQ News.com. There are seven workforce housing complexes. The Redevelopment Agency has created 476 new living spaces, which house over 1,200 residents.

Poway is ranked the sixth best city in California to locate a business according to Outlook Magazine.

Staff writer Nick Taborek contributed to this report.

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