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Media Coverage
Few Contend for Richmond City Manager
July 10, 2004


A Los Angeles executive recruiter has netted six city manager candidates for Richmond -- far fewer than the City Council had hoped for -- and a permanent chief executive for this city of 107,000 could be in place in September. After interviews with the council, the contenders will be winnowed to two on Thursday.

What happens next is "a little murky," in the words of one council member.

Interim City Manager Leveron Bryant retires July 21. When the council takes its annual hiatus in August, interim City Attorney Everett Jenkins will be at the helm.

A plan to tap a League of California Cities pool of retired managers for a temporary stint through the November election is "at this point, a plan B," Bryant said Friday.

Los Angeles recruiter Bill Hawkins of the Hawkins Company found few contenders, but they are of "the caliber, with the breadth of experience, the city is seeking."

"This City Council is placing a strong emphasis on financial management," Bryant said. "Richmond is a full-service city. If the candidate has not worked for any substantial period of time in a full-service city, yet has a financial background, that situation would be OK."

Hawkins has advertised for a "strong, assertive and visionary leader" who will do everything from develop employee performance evaluations to establish a functional information services department, according to the job announcement.

The city has weathered rocky times since former City Manager Isiah Turner retired in December, including a deficit of $35 million and resulting mass layoffs and service cuts. Given that, many in the field of municipal government say the ideal contender is unlikely to apply for the job.

It is no secret that Richmond has been wracked with troubles, said Assemblyman Simon Salinas, D-Salinas, chairman of the Assembly Local Government Committee, which recently recommended Richmond knock its council down from nine to seven seats.

"People in management have their network," he said. "They ask each other, 'How much turmoil is there? How divisive is the council? How much turnover is there?'"

Quality candidates may be put off by the size of the council, its penchant for squabbling, and an upcoming election that could see more than half the council members replaced by challengers, said Bill Garrett, president of California City Management Foundation, a support organization for city managers.

"It's really difficult when you have a split council," he said. "Your city manager has to be able to count five votes. Yet, he or she was hired by all of them, so must also stay in touch with the minority. More and more, I'm hearing people complain of a lack of civility."

The council had harbored some hopes that Bryant, a veteran of Richmond government, would return after his upcoming vacation in France. He has been accepted to a doctoral program in urban studies at UC Berkeley, but will not begin until fall 2005.

A citizens committee whose members have yet to be appointed will interview two finalists after the council agrees on them in a meeting Thursday. Each council member and the mayor will appoint one member, Councilman Tom Butt said.

But Bryant said he is only willing to return for two weeks, to aid a new city manager in transition.

"Leveron is going to be leaving us in good stead," Mayor Irma Anderson said.

Just before his retirement, former City Manager Isiah Turner said the city's financial woes stem partly from its insistence on remaining a full-service city.

"Richmond just can't continue to be all things to all people," he said.