ALAMEDA: With new council on horizon, city manager application period is reopened

With a 40 percent turnover of the Alameda City Council following the November elections imminent, the city’s ongoing search for a new city manager is being re-opened for new applicants.

Alameda has been without a permanent city manager since last May after Jill Keimach and the city agreed to a $900,000 settlement agreement. Interim City Manager David Rudat has held the position since Aug. 6. His contract runs through Jan. 31.

A month before Alameda’s highly competitive mayoral and council races, the application window for prospective city manager prospects ended. The November contests proved transformative as voters jettisoned Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer for Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, and added former Councilmember Tony Daysog and former Planning Board member John Knox White to the five-person council.

Two of the five members are new, and, as a whole, the council inched further to left on the political spectrum. The changes mean any previous city manager applicant envisioned working with a different set of elected officials, said Knox White.

During a Nov. 27 council meeting, Knox White and Daysog both urged the current council to extend the city manager application process, also citing a lack of public outreach on the matter.
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“I have concerns about the fact that there’s been a process that hasn’t been publicly discussed or even announced related to the hiring of a new city manager,” said Knox White. “And with the election, I think some of that process should be reconsidered.”

Potential city manager candidates are also, in essence, interviewing council members when applying, said Daysog. They might ask themselves, “Do they want to work with us?” he added.

In addition, Alameda councilmembers also have an open city attorney’s position to fill sometime early next year following the retirement this month of Janet Kern, which she announced in early September. The application deadline for city attorney ended in late November.

But pressure on the council to hire a suitable city manger is high following the Keimach controversy that significantly polarized the community. The Keimach settlement deal ended a nearly year-long City Hall scandal involving a contentious hiring process for a new fire chief and incident in which she admitted to secretly recorded two councilmembers.

Keimach made the recording because she believed the councilmembers might be in the process of committing a crime. The Alameda County District Attorney’s office last October declined to charge Keimach.