The search for Santa Monica’s next city manager is officially underway.

Santa Monica City Council unanimously directed staff Tuesday to retain Lamont Ewell of Ralph Andersen & Associates, who is now set to begin searching for Santa Monica’s first permanent manager since Rick Cole resigned in April 2020.

Having previously managed the cities of Santa Monica, San Diego, and Durham, North Carolina, Councilmembers said they believe Ewell has the experience necessary to find the best candidates for the job.

Councilmember Gleam Davis, who joined Mayor Sue Himmelrich and Councilmember Oscar de la Torre on an ad-hoc committee tasked with hiring a search firm, clarified this week that Ewell will not be responsible for hiring a city manager; instead, he will recommend a short list of candidates who will be interviewed by the Council before a selection is made.

Himmelrich highlighted Ralph Andersen & Associates’ rigorous background checking capacities and the firm’s broad network within the state when sharing why she felt the firm was the best fit. Interim City Manager Lane Dilg added the firm is also responsible for the search for Santa Monica’s new police chief, so the City is currently hoping it will be able to negotiate a more cost-effective price.

One local resident phoned in to the meeting to oppose Ewell’s selection, but Councilmember Phil Brock said Ewell was always accessible to all residents and did a great job during his time leading the City.

“He was our City Manager for five years; he knows our city; he knows the players,” Brock added, “and I think he’s a wonderful choice.”

City staff previously said it could take as little as four months to find a replacement for Dilg, who is set to leave the City in Spring 2021.

“When looking for a city manager, I think that we want a city manager for the long-term and we want that person to provide excellence for the community and continuity,” Dilg said in an interview with the Daily Press shortly after she announced her coming departure from the City.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown agreed in an interview this week.

“We want someone who can understand Santa Monica’s unique characteristics and needs,” he said. “Clearly, our new city manager will be tasked with bringing us back from COVID and its economic struggles as a reinvented community, but at the same time, we want a refreshed and recognizable Santa Monica, not losing our historic identity.”

Brennon@smdp.com