On Saturday, Rod Gould will step down from his post as city manager — the city’s top job — and turn over the reins to current Assistant City Manager Elaine Polachek, who will serve as the acting city manager until a new one is selected.
Tuesday was Gould’s last City Council meeting, and the seven members — some of whom have served with him for the entirety of his five-year Santa Monica tenure — honored him.
Before thanking the council for their collaboration, Gould spoke of the unique and passionate residents and city employees he met while serving as the boss of the city.
Below are excerpts from Gould and council on Tuesday.
Rod Gould: “I’m feeling awfully nostalgic and grateful for the opportunity you bestowed on me years ago to lead the organization in support of the council goals and directives. The more I studied Santa Monica at that time, the more fascinated I became. I’ve been a student of cities for decades and I had not come across a city, then or since, that has engaged in so many issues at such a high level all at the same time. And where the citizens are so sophisticated and so engaged in the public process that any night of the week there could be not one but two, maybe even three, community meetings going on in different parts of the city on different subject with people all interested in perfecting their community.”
“It’s been a true pleasure working here with you and your predecessors on the council. The relationship between the council and the manager is a very special one and one that, when it works really well, it benefits the whole community. In my meetings with you individually over the months and years it’s very clear that each of you is deeply vested in the notion of improving the community that you serve. It’s about the communal benefit rather than your own individual aggrandizement that is at stake here.”
“Santa Monica is really a learning laboratory for so many individuals, groups, and agendas. This is a city with unbounded possibilities. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in five years. I’m very grateful for your kind words and support. I have nothing but optimism for Santa Monica going forward.”
Councilember Tony Vazquez and Mayor Kevin McKeown cited Gould’s work on Measures Y and YY, which raised sales tax to fund the schools.
TV: “I guess one of the things that really impressed me was really your financial depth. It was evident to me because my wife being on the school board, when they were in a jam financially, when you were able to come up with this creative solution with the YY. Not only did it save the school system a ton of money, or generate some good revenue, but it also helped the city so I thought that was a real win-win-win situation.”
KM: “You came here as a new city manager in a position where usually city managers don’t want to share the resources of their city with anybody. You realized how important education was to this community. You ascertained a need. You came up with an innovative creative way to fulfill that need, you engaged the entire community, and got us to work together on something we all believed in, and you helped us succeed in passing those measures which are left as your legacy of ongoing, dependable, educational funding for public education in this community. That means that students, for years to come, will have a better education because of Rod Gould having been city manager in our city.”
“Goodbyes are difficult because I tend to get emotional but I can tell you that your leaving has affected me deeply because last night, I dreamed that you were moving out of a commune that you and I both lived in.”
Councilmember Sue Himmelrich was elected in November and therefore has only served with Gould for about two months.
SH: “My very first meeting with the city was with Rod and Elaine, and Rod said to me at that meeting, ‘We’re here to serve you.’ He listened to my concerns. He responded to them and I have to say that, for a guy who’s leaving, it was something he didn’t have to do but he did. And although there are areas in which we disagree, we nevertheless had a very civil and fruitful dialogue.”
Councilmember Ted Winterer lauded what he called Gould’s “freakish work ethic.”
TW: “I always tell people I can email the city manager at like 10:30 on Sunday night and I hear back within two minutes and I’ve just always been really impressed with how hard you’ve worked with this job, how much you’ve been on top of every aspect of the city. Just about every question I could ask would have an answer and I really appreciated your enthusiasm and dedication for the job. But getting back to that work ethic: It’s called retirement, Rod. Take it easy for a while.”
Councilmember Terry O’Day: “You’re my first and only city manager I’ve worked with and in developing our relationship I’ve learned a ton about management and the approach you bring to your work and, in particular, I’ve also witness you lead with real integrity. I appreciate that. It’s taught me a great deal about leadership and about public service and this work that we all do together. And to do that, and to hold those principles, and to get as much done as you did, I think is really quite extraordinary and the legacy that you leave us with and for me to build a foundation on as I go forward in this role.”
Councilmember Pam O’Connor was serving as mayor when Gould announced his retirement last summer.
PO: “Every time I’m mayor or acting mayor, city managers retire. And you kept my record going because you officially retired when I was mayor. But you’re the fourth one who has retired when I’ve been mayor or acting mayor.”
“Despite the fact that you might be retiring from day-to-day city management, the thing that does inspire you, too, is good governance. And sharing good governance and ethical governance and those kinds of leadership skills who are both active in their local community, who are active in their local city both on city staffs as well as City Council … is really commendable.”
Councilmember Gleam Davis was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.