News - December 22, 2010

Atherton names interim manager

by Renee Batti

John Danielson, former city manager of Elk Grove and Wildomar, both in California, will be Atherton's interim city manager if terms of a contract can be agreed upon.

The Atherton City Council announced on Dec. 15 that Mr. Danielson, who operates the Danielson Associates consulting firm in Sacramento, was its choice to lead the town until a recruitment process to find a permanent manager is completed. One of the interim manager's roles will be to help the council conduct that search.

Mayor Jim Dobbie said Mr. Danielson got "very, very good references" from everyone the town contacted. The consensus was that "he is a first-class manager," the mayor said.

A key to his appointment, Mr. Dobbie said, is that Mr. Danielson didn't want the permanent manager's position. "That's what we insisted on," he said, explaining that the council didn't want others interested in the permanent position to be reluctant to apply because a fellow applicant had his foot in the door.

The choice was unanimous among the four council members who in November interviewed the five candidates on the finalists list. Bill Widmer, who was sworn in as a council member on Dec. 15 and therefore had not been part of the council review of candidates, abstained from voting.

Mayor Jim Dobbie and Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen were appointed as a subcommittee to negotiate a contract with Mr. Danielson. Mayor Dobbie said the council wants the search for a permanent manager to be thorough, but that he hopes it can be concluded within six months.

Mr. Danielson had his share of detractors as Elk Grove city manager, and his salary and post-employment compensation was a source of criticism. One newspaper reported that in the five years he was in Elk Grove, he amassed some $4.8 million in compensation, leave buybacks, lifetime health insurance and pension benefits.

Mr. Dobbie said the town "checked all of it out thoroughly, and it wasn't true."

Noting that Mr. Danielson has experience in managing police departments and in personnel management, Mayor Dobbie said, "He was by far, in my mind, the best of the applicants."

The other finalists were current "bridge" interim manager Nadine Levin of San Mateo, Martha Debry of San Jose, Eli Naffah of Crescent City, and Gene Rogers of Pebble Beach.


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