Menlo Park Public Works Director Jesse Quirion has announced he is leaving the city Aug. 20 for a job with Google in Tennessee. He is the third high-level city employee whose departure has been announced within a week.
Assistant City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson is retiring on July 31 and Finance Director Drew Corbett is leaving Aug. 14 to take the same post with the city of San Mateo.
City Manager Alex McIntyre said he will attempt to find someone to act as an interim director of public works by the end of August, but that finding a permanent replacement will probably take until January 2016.
Mr. McIntyre said he does not see the three departures coming so close together as the sign of a problem in the city. "It's a coincidence," he said. "It's young people and their careers. They see opportunity and they take it."
Both Mr. Quirion and Mr. Corbett "are going off to much better, really, opportunities," he said. Mr. Corbett will have a more complex operation to work with, a bigger staff, and higher pay, Mr. McIntyre said.
Mr. Quirion will be able to relocate to the South, where both he and his wife are from, Mr. McIntyre said. He will be working on Google fiber projects, he said.
Mr. McIntyre said he had known Ms. Jerome-Robinson was retiring for several months, and that he knew Mr. Corbett was applying for jobs. "I knew when he applied to San Mateo, he'd get a job offer," he said.
Mr. Quirion's departure, however, was a surprise, he said. "I did not see this coming," he said. Mr. Quirion's desire to work for Google, in addition to being closer to his roots and making more money, makes sense to him, however. "He's always been what we call an early adapter of technology," Mr. McIntyre said.
The city will survive this, Mr. McIntyre said.
"None of this is cataclysmic," he said. "We just can't afford any hiccups."
Mr. Quirion was only appointed public works director in December, but he had been filling in as interim director for the previous six months. He was hired by the city as transportation manager in 2013. He has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master's in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.
Recruiting and hiring has become more difficult, Mr. McIntyre said, for several reasons. One is the cost of living on the Peninsula. Another is that the city's reduction in pension benefits for new hires means that luring an experienced employee away from another public agency can be hard if the current employer has a better pension plan.
Mr. McIntyre said he is in the process of hiring a search firm to help fill the positions.
"Finance and public works are probably the two hardest positions to recruit for and find good talent," he said.
Council member Peter Ohtaki said Mr. Quirion will be missed. "I'm so sad he's leaving," he said. "He's a great guy," who has moved a lot of projects forward during his time with the city, Mr. Ohtaki said.
"I appreciate his contributions to Menlo Park while he's been here," he said.
As for Mr. McIntyre, he definitely will not be taking the month of August off.
His job now, Mr. McIntyre said, "is to get people on board - to keep the ship straight and running."