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Mountain View Voice

News - March 11, 2011

A manager for all seasons

Residents describe qualities they want in city's new CEO

by Daniel DeBolt

The City Council convened a meeting Saturday morning to ask residents what traits a new city manager should have. Their answer: a fiscal conservative, a protector of park land, a forward thinker, someone able to present every side of an issue and willing to encourage city staff members to be accessible to the public.

Kevin Duggan will retire April 2 after 20 years as Mountain View's city manager. The council will begin a selection process once all applications for the job are received by the March 28 deadline.

"The city manager really sets the culture in the organization for the staff," said resident Paul Donahue at the March 5 meeting. "In the interactions I've had with city staff I've found them very receptive." They are "interested in engaging people who have complaints.

Donahue talked about writing a complaint letter to a department head 15 years ago to which he received a response saying that a city staffer had been assigned to research his complaint. "They actually seem to really care. Setting the culture, I think, is important."

Longtime resident Gene Holly noted how much the city has changed since he arrived in 1967 to see Castro Street vacant and rundown. "The person we hire has got to have a vision," Holly said. With Mountain View hosting companies like Google and Microsoft, "we have an impact on the world." He urged the council to not make the mistake of hiring someone just because "everybody likes this person."

Similar remarks came from a resident who said she works for the city of Palo Alto.

"I work in a city that lives in the past, which is ironic because they have businesses that look to the future," she said. "They don't seem to be able to break out of that mold. Being a leader, taking that first step to redevelop Castro Street, that took a lot of forward thinking. It takes a city manager willing to look beyond the immediate future."

Bob Capriles, who said he has been a Mountain View resident since 1966, said it was important for the new city manager to be "accessible — someone willing to come out of his office to meet you."

The city manager should be "fiscally responsible," Capriles said, "Somebody willing to set aside reserve funds and be firm about not using those funds even when people beg him to use it."

Resident Gertrude Gilkey said the new city manager should have a "backbone" when it comes to the city's unions.

She noted recent cases of retired city department heads who returned to work part-time for $100 an hour while receiving their pensions. "That should never happen," she said. "We cannot go on like we're doing," Gilkey said. The city should examine "each project to make sure we can pay for it without burdening our children."

Resident Barbara Goodwin wanted the new city manager to save another sort of green — park space.

"I am very much hoping that the new person understands how our parks are shrinking," Goodwin said. "It needs to be open space, anything else is unacceptable."

She called the plan to move the historic Pearson house to the Cuesta Annex along with a planned history museum "grandiose."

Several residents said the ideal traits were exemplified in current City Manager Kevin Duggan, just as city employees said in a similar for staff meeting last month.

The ability to see all the facets of an issue or debate is important, said resident Thida Cornes. "(That's) one of many reasons people love Kevin so much." He "presented balanced and fair reports" which allowed the community to trust him, she said.

Residents can continue to weigh in by e-mailing cmrecruitment@mountainview.gov by April 15.