The city of Menlo Park has lost its fourth administrator since mid-July, with the departure of Human Resources Director Gina Donnelly announced by City Manager Alex McIntyre on Aug. 27.
Mr. McIntyre said Ms. Donnelly, who began working for the city in July 2013, is leaving because her commute from her home in Morgan Hill had become unmanageable. She will become Human Resources Director in Monterey.
"Menlo Park is a great community and is a great employer as well," said Ms. Donnelly. However, she had a daily as much as four-hour round trip commute from her home in Morgan Hill and could not afford to relocate to Menlo Park.
"The commute has gotten exponentially harder since I began three years ago," she said.
Assistant City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson retired on July 31 and Finance Director Drew Corbett left Aug. 14 to take the same post with the city of San Mateo. Public Works Director Jesse Quirion left the city Aug. 20 for a job with Google in Tennessee.
At the same time Ms. Donnelly's departure was announced, Mr. McIntyre announced a number of hires or shifting of personnel within the city.
He said that police Commander Dave Bertini will become interim human resources director, to "hold down the department until such a time that I can name a new permanent director."
Retired Menlo Park Police Commander Terri Molakides will temporarily fill Commander Bertini's vacancy, Mr. McIntyre said.
Mr. McIntyre has also borrowed Ann Stillman, San Mateo County's deputy director of public works, to work three-quarters time for Menlo Park as interim public works director until a permanent replacement for Mr. Quirion can be found, he said.
On Aug. 25, Mr. McIntyre announced he had contracted with Nick Pegueros, whose "involuntary resignation" as the Portola Valley town manager was announced Aug. 12, to be the interim administrative services director. Mr. Pegueros will coordinate human resources, finance and information technology services, according to Mr. McIntyre.
In an email to city employees sent Aug. 27, Mr. McIntyre noted that a great deal of change has taken place in the city over the summer. "A number of key managers have left the City in pursuit of other work opportunities," he wrote.
"With the strong and talented managers we have, it should not come as a surprise that greater work, quality of life and/or financial opportunities lure them away. It is to be expected. My preference is that they not all happen at the same time."
Mr. McIntyre said the city has a number of challenges in recruiting and retaining top quality employees. The high cost of living locally, the distances people have to travel to work and the changes in the city's retirement system that offer fewer benefits to new employees "all combine to make it difficult to attract a pool of talent," he said.
Because "people can't afford to move to the area," recruitment is harder, he said. "The ones who I have to hire are the ones who are here," he said.
"This is partially a function of compensation; this is partially a function of location," he said, and similar things are affecting many other Silicon Valley businesses. "Menlo Park's not alone," Mr. McIntyre said.