Menlo Park city manager plans to leave for Ventura

McIntyre is in negotiations for new city manager position; may leave at the end of October

Menlo Park City Manager Alex McIntyre told The Almanac on Sept. 24 that he has given notice of resignation to the City Council and is in the process of negotiating with the city of Ventura to take on the role of city manager there.

"I'm negotiating an agreement with them," he said. "They are interested in me and I am interested in them. We just have to work out the deal points."

He said he plans to leave his job here at the end of October.

He and the City Council plan to meet in closed session on Oct. 9 to discuss options for a permanent or interim city manager.

Finding a successor

McIntyre's move to Ventura, if the negotiations go through, will be the most recent in a series of consequential departures, especially of staff in management-level positions, from the city of Menlo Park in recent months. The city manager's office already has a 32 percent vacancy rate, while the city's community development and public works departments both have vacancy rates of 20 percent.

As to who will fill the position of city manager, McIntyre said, "It's really wide open – we have no known candidates at this point."

Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki said the council is working on finding an interim or acting city manager who can fill the role while the city hires an executive search firm to conduct a more thorough search for a new city manager.

"Certainly, the key is to get an interim (city manager) in place that allows us to do a comprehensive search and make sure we find the right fit – between a candidate and Menlo Park," Ohtaki said.

But Ohtaki and Councilman Rich Cline acknowledged that hiring a qualified replacement quickly may be a challenge.

"We cannot pay as much as other cities pay for a city manager. Nor should we, because we're not as big as certain other cities, like Palo Alto," Ohtaki said. "But what we do offer is a great professional staff for them to work with and an engaged community."

"It's a competitive time," Cline said. "The marketplace is not very favorable to finding somebody that's high-quality quickly. I don't think there are a whole lot of candidates who can just come here, move in and buy something."

The search process for a new permanent city manager would likely begin with input from the new council to be seated in December following the November elections, and is estimated to take four to six months, Ohtaki said.

"I believe right now the focus should be making certain the staff has the resources to deliver city services and stabilizing City Hall through the transition," said Councilman Ray Mueller. "Once the council is in place after this year's election, the focus will more than likely shift to crafting a vision and goals with which we can recruit the next city manager, and with which they can begin to fill out the vacancies at City Hall."

Cline said he'd look for a candidate who has comparable experience, specifically in a California city – California, he said, has "wildly different" laws, politics and economics from other states. He'd also value a candidate who has experience in infrastructure and transportation, and who offers a different approach to addressing city problems, he said.


The Ventura City Council was scheduled to discuss the matter Monday (Sept. 24), in closed session, a matter related to the city manager position. According to McIntyre, the council discussion will concern the terms of an agreement with him. The Ventura City Council did not publicly report an outcome of that closed session.

If that all goes well, he said, the expectation is to have a public approval of the council's agreement with him on Oct. 8.

According to the Ventura County Star, on Aug. 27, the Ventura City Council hired its second interim city manager since December, Don Penman, for six months or until a permanent city manager is chosen. In an Aug. 26 report, the publication reported the Ventura council was "close to hiring a permanent city manager."

Ventura has a population of about 109,957 and a salary range for city manager between $19,333.70 and $20,557.58 a month, or $232,000 and $246,690 a year, according to the city website and salary schedule. Former Ventura City Manager Mark Watkins earned just over $300,000 in salary and benefits in 2016, the Star reported.

McIntyre's tenure

Ohtaki said that he was on the original subcommittee that chose McIntyre in a search process about six years ago.

"A key attribute Alex has is being able to work with the council and be able to suggest ways in which the council's priorities and objectives can be implemented," he said. "Alex has had a lot of experience and brought from his experience in previous cities a strong managerial background to be able to work with the council."

Since McIntyre took the reins as city manager here in March 2012, the city has seen two major developments along El Camino Real – Greenheart Land Co.'s "Station 1300" and Stanford's "Middle Plaza" – approved, the Hotel Nia and Park James Hotel completed, the general plan update completed, and the process to approve proposed changes to the Guild Theatre downtown accelerated, according to Ohtaki. Facebook's presence in Menlo Park, since 2012, has grown substantially, he noted.

"Most importantly, I think he did a great job of improving the morale of city employees and city staff to increase the capacity and professionalism of our city staff," Ohtaki said.

Cline said McIntyre took on managing city matters at a time of immense regional growth. Some of that involved acknowledging the city's limitations, in terms of being realistic about the city's ability to mitigate traffic, for instance, and developing a growing awareness about the regional housing shortage.

It also required flexibility in managing the intense competition for talent around the region and, frequently, the loss of key staff members. "I think he handled it well," Cline said. "He had to reorganize many times."

"I'm certainly sad about it but definitely congratulate and wish Alex the best on his new endeavors, and certainly want to thank him for his leadership over the last several years," Ohtaki said.

Council members Kirsten Keith and Catherine Carlton did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


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21 people like this
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 24, 2018 at 5:57 pm

Working on my election blog post. But in reviewing the major issues facing MP it isn’t traffic, nor housing, nor offices.

Rather, It’s governance. From the council to city manager thence to staff.
It’s sunshine on potential conflicts.

21 people like this
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 24, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Let me add that itsnour grdat council member, Ray Mueller, who has championed the discussion and movement on sunshine. Thus far with little interest from his colleagues.

9 people like this
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 24, 2018 at 6:04 pm

Excuse me. I’m trying to get a pair of smaller thumb pads.

6 people like this
Posted by traffic is the only issue
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Sep 24, 2018 at 7:30 pm

Stu, we appreciate you making this argument for Combs' election as Combs is recused from addressing traffic and development impacts from Facebook, leaving District 2 with NO VOICE and NO REPRESENTATION for the next four years.

Lynne Bramlett has raised some good points about sunshine, but the reality is that this has become fodder for election season. Unfortunately, Mueller didn't show up for the council meeting to voice concerns about council travel, and George Fisher was not able to even propose any changes to the travel policy.

You will never convince voters that development and the related traffic is not impacting their quality of life.

30 people like this
Posted by Just stop
a resident of Encinal School
on Sep 24, 2018 at 7:41 pm

Dear Campaign for Kirsten Keith troll.
Please stop spamming every article with all your anti-Drew Combs conflict gibberish. Reading all your redundant posts makes me not want to vote for Keith.
Please stop.

19 people like this
Posted by Just an observation
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 24, 2018 at 8:10 pm

Now this is cause for celebration. New City manager will have to clean house with all the incompetents Alex promoted recently.

8 people like this
Posted by The Carousel
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 24, 2018 at 8:24 pm

[This post and subsequent comments addressing it removed; if you have evidence of the insider claims you are making, contact}

17 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2018 at 3:59 am

Congrats Alex on your new adventure. When I look at all your top managers, it’s like looking at the Roman Empire, or a segment at the bath house.

Glad you re leaving but, boy a lot of damage done. Take all your bath house gang with you !!! Including that new police chief. Time for a sheriff takeover.

Good Bye!!

2 people like this
Posted by The Willows
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 25, 2018 at 10:01 am

The Willows is a registered user.

Today's Daily Post reminds us that city council considered making it a misdemeanor for the city manager not to report hiring a PR consultant. That sounds ridiculous, but it's true. Now bring on the high quality city manager applicants.

10 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 25, 2018 at 10:36 am

Brian is a registered user.

"traffic is the only issue",

You sound a lot like "Representation for 2" a person that seems to be part of Keith's campaign and who spreads a lot of false information about what Combs has to recuse himself on. So unless and until the city attorney decides what he needs to be recused from and what he does not I would stop spreading those rumors.

Now let me tell every one about Keith and traffic. When the residents of the Willows went to the current City Council about the traffic issues that were impacting them all we got was a nebulous "We will do another traffic study in two years" and ZERO in the way of action. It took getting a number of neighbors together, creating a petition and going door to door to get signatures as well as having signature drives at the Pope Island and the Willows Market, then we went as a large group to the council meeting with hundreds of signatures to make sure something happened. What caused this problem that made us spend so much effort to get it addressed? The 101/Willow Road interchange project that the current city council voted to approve and which has turned into a nightmare for the residents of District 2 (and others).

So as far a recusal goes I firmly believe it is better to have someone recuse themselves that to have an automatic approve vote. That would pretty much be Keith's record (approve all large development projects).

1 person likes this
Posted by The Willows
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 25, 2018 at 1:02 pm

The Willows is a registered user.

Although the timing of the city manager's departure aligns somewhat with the election, this story has nothing to do with the election. I hope the Almanac can scrub the remaining off-topic comments.

4 people like this
Posted by George Fisher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 25, 2018 at 4:02 pm

George Fisher is a registered user.

“. . . George Fisher was not able to even propose any changes to the travel policy.”

Below is my 9/13 Almanac comment on article about Council Travel Policy:

“In addition Kirsten Keith tweeted a reference to Lenny Siegel’s “outstanding summary of our recent trip to @Chengdu_China". Siegel’s summary of March 28, 2018 stated:

“The Chinese are interested in obtaining Silicon Valley technology, and our visit served as a positive counterpoint to President Trump’s declaration of a trade war.”

More is needed than the minor changes made to the travel policy. Menlo Park should place a moratorium on its representatives traveling internationally at the expense of Foreign Governments or purported Charitable 501c3 organizations without prior consent of City Council after full disclosure. “

23 people like this
Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 25, 2018 at 4:45 pm

Steve Schmidt is a registered user.

The Menlo Park City Manager’s impeding departure coming on the eve of City Council election should be viewed as an opportunity for a fresh start for the City. Along with a new City Manager, we will have at least one new Council Member and hopefully three, none of which will have established ties to the past policies marked by chummy relationships with developers and their lobbyists.

Ironic that Kirsten Keith with her travels to China and most recently to Galway Ireland with Facebook executives would criticize Drew Combs for his likely recusal from matters Facebook. She who has never voted against a Facebook project.

Rather than recycle up-and-coming or has-been candidates from other jurisdictions, Menlo park should pick a new City Manager from within who lives in Menlo Park. What about Justin Murphy, the Public Works Director?

6 people like this
Posted by Debbie Hall
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 25, 2018 at 9:42 pm

Debbie Hall is a registered user.

In this article, Peter Ohtaki states: "We cannot pay as much as other cities pay for a city manager. Nor should we, because we're not as big as certain other cities, like Palo Alto." The Daily Post today reported that Alex McIntyre received $338,339 in pay and benefits last year, and that the city of Ventura, with a population of 100,000+ (3x Menlo Park's size) - where he is negotiating his deal -- paid their city manager $329,141 last year in pay and benefits.

Seems we are paying too much for a city of our size.

Like this comment
Posted by The Willows
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 26, 2018 at 2:40 am

The Willows is a registered user.

Steve, you refer to Keith's travels to Galway Ireland with Facebook executives. Who are these executives? If Keith went to Galway last year, why haven't we read anything about this?

4 people like this
Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 26, 2018 at 9:51 am

Steve Schmidt is a registered user.

The FB executives were Fergus O'Shea and Juan Salazar, who were there with Kirsten Keith, the Mayor of Galway and the President of Ireland at the same event. I believe that it was November 25, 2017.
You might ask Keith for more details.
I'm not anti-Keith. I'd vote for her if she ran for the California Legislature, the Board of Supervisors or the US Congress. Her chumminess with bigwigs will serve her well in a higher office. She's worn out her welcome here in Menlo Park.

4 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Good Luck Alex

I was on the selection committee that chose Alex and he was BY FAR the best candidate. Satisfying the whinny constituents of Menlo Park is a near IMPOSSIBLE task, and Alex has had to navigate that.

Menlo Park is a unique "village" (my favorite bullshit term we toss around) of over educated people used to getting their own way, who ascribe their desire as fact and expect our city government to "logically" agree with them. Again, Alex has found solutions for most of these issues, and I congratulate him for it.

Roy Thiele-Sardina

4 people like this
Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2018 at 1:22 pm

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

I wish Alex all the best in his new position and I thank him for his service to Menlo Park. The times have certainly changed since Alex arrived. According to the book, "The Next Form of Democracy: How Expert Rule is Giving Way to Shared Governance...and Why Politics will Never Be the Same" by Matt Leighninger, Web Link there has been a profound shift in what people expect from their government. No longer content to leave governing to elected officials and staff, people want to play an active role in the decision-making process and in addressing persistent problems. As a former mayor in Lawrence, Kansas put it in his quote on the back cover, "If I had read Leighninger's book before my eight years on the City Council, I would have been a more effective public official." This book explains much to me regarding what I've seen in MP over the past few years, as it pertains to what residents are asking for. To be successful, our next City Manager will need to be a person skilled in modern approaches to governing -- such as in embedded public engagement. To give Council a strategic-planning framework and to cut down on the role of special interests in our local democracy, I'd like to see a community-based strategic planning process that leads to a long-term strategic plan such as in the example from Tacoma, Washington. Web Link The book, "Elevating Trust in Local Government" (Davis and Griffiths) outlines a cost-effective and workable process as a starting point for possible further tweaking in MP. I also recommend this book.

Like this comment
Posted by The Willows
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 26, 2018 at 2:33 pm

The Willows is a registered user.

Steve, a Google search reveals there was an unveiling for a statue of poet Padraic O Conaire in Eyre Square. The unveiling and a reception appear to be open to the public. Keith tweeted about it (Web Link) and there are multiple photo albums online (Web Link). George Fisher should be pleased to see that Mayor Keith does not appear to be wearing a name badge, nor does she appear to be signing anything. If these Facebook people were at the unveiling or reception, the Photographer didn't reference them in the captions.

We also found this email to city council (Web Link), "We were delighted you were able to join President Higgins and Mayor Flannery in Eyre Square. We were wondering if you could share the contact information for the Facebook representatives from Menlo Park who attended the event, please?" From that email to city council, Galway staff hosting mayor Keith during her trip didn't know these people. It doesn't sound like she was traveling with them. They may have simply attended the same event.

Steve asserts that Keith traveled with Facebook. There is never a mystery about where Keith is in the world because she is often tweeting and attending publicly noticed meetings. [Portion removed; stick to the topic]

8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 26, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It will be a great opportunity to see a number of local jurisdictions select new City/Town Managers at the same time since they tend to form a little clique amongst themselves which can either raise or lower their standard of performance.

4 people like this
Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 26, 2018 at 6:17 pm

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

Roy Thiele-Sardiña -- who else was on the selection committee that choose Alex? How many were on the committee? If you don't want to provide specific names and titles, can you at least provide the general background (i.e. city staff, council members, school officials or teachers, small business owners, commissioners, developers, parents, seniors, stakeholders in the Belle Haven Community, venture capitalists, local government officials from neighboring towns, etc.) of the people on the committee and how many were in each category?

I'd like to get an idea as to how representative the prior committee was and how many total people served. For those not serving, what was the public engagement process whereby the community could meet the candidates and provide input into the selection committee?

No matter how well something might have gone, there is always room for improvement. The information may lead to insights that would benefit the upcoming process. Thank you.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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