In a lively meeting Tuesday afternoon, some of the city's 650 employees told the City Council that what they would like in a new city manager is exemplified in Kevin Duggan, who is retiring from the job April 2 after 20 years.
"If we could just clone him before he goes," said one city employee.
A dozen employees spoke for a half an hour on their noon lunch break before the City Council about what they would like in a new city manager.
Some surprising observations were made about Duggan. Several employees said that Duggan knows the name and job of nearly every one of the city's 650 employees. At one point, he put on a hard hat and jeans to work with a street maintenance crew, apparently to experience the "nitty gritty" aspects of such a job, said employees Sandra Sanchez and Ray Rodrguez. They said they hoped the new city manager would be willing to do the same.
Employees could apparently sense that Duggan appreciated all of them.
Despite the fact she rarely sees Duggan, "He knows my name, he knows what I do," said one employee. "There's 650 of us and he could pick any of us out of a lineup."
"I've heard new employees say, 'That's the city manager. I've only been here a week and he knew my name,'" said Mike Fuller, the public works director.
Staff members said Duggan exemplified many of the things they want in a new city manager: he's a "strategic thinker" who is "decisive" yet "flexible." They said he pressed city staff to be available to the public, something some employees might not do otherwise.
Helen Anstead of the finance department pointed out Duggan's "ethical standards." And several employees praised his fiscally conservative approach, which has left the city in much better financial shape than most, preventing layoffs.
"We might humorously call Kevin 'Mr. Tightwad,' but that has been a huge asset," said public works employee Rey Rodriguez, referring to Kevin's ability to balance the city's budget. "You could do all of the other things well but if you don't have that down, you aren't going anywhere."
Building inspector and former union rep Richard Ames said a new city manager should have "a consensus, problem-solving approach." Someone who is apt "more to solve problems and less to lay blame."
Ames brought up what's happening in Wisconsin, where conservative Gov. Scott Walker's uncompromising stand on collective bargaining rights has exploded into massive protests. "You know that's an example of what not to get," Ames said, amid laughter.
"We inspect the sewers, we put out the fires," Ames said. "We're really an integral part of what happens here and we need to be recognized as that. Employee morale -- that's a tough one right now. We've got some tough times, everyone knows that. What's bad for the city is bad for us."
Another former union rep, code inspector Chris Costanzo, said he appreciated Duggan's "open door policy" which allowed employees to talk with him whenever he wasn't busy.
As council members prodded city staff to approach the microphone, Councilman John Inks said it might be possible that the city council isn't aware of over 50 percent of what Duggan does.
"Most of the day we don't know exactly what Kevin is doing," Inks said. "He's a very hands-on guy."
There are things "we never hear about because he takes care of them," Inks said.
In response, Fuller said "he has been an incredible liaison between staff and the council, and staff and various other agencies." Duggan has been a "conduit with the outside world" who is able to decisively say what needs to be done for a project and whether it's good timing. "I've relied on him quite a bit for that," Fuller said.
Ellis Berns, the economic development director, said Duggan is "a great interpreter of policy. How we establish programs and implement policies is critical. He protects us as staff and makes sure we don't go over our bounds. He makes sure we follow policy set by council. That's why things have worked so smoothly over the years. He knows the community, he knows the council."
Council member Tom Means joked that the only things staff must not like about Duggan are his "long Power Point presentations and bad jokes."
"I like his bad jokes," shouted an employee from the audience.