Menlo Park's city manager Starla Jerome-Robinson has resigned and will work no later than Jan. 28. The City Council plans to appoint Deputy City Manager Justin Murphy as the city's new interim city manager as soon as Jan. 11, according to a press release on Friday evening, Jan. 7.
This news came as an announcement by Genevieve Ng, legal counsel for the city, following a closed – not public – City Council session held Friday afternoon.
Starla Jerome Robinson, Menlo Park's city manager since February 2019, resigned from her position on Dec. 27, and it will be effective no later than Jan. 28, according to Ng. Her resignation comes just months before her planned retirement.
Menlo Park's former Assistant City Manager, Nick Pegueros, no longer works for the city, and ended his tenure there on December 31. He begins work on Jan. 12 with the city of Saratoga as administrative services director. In an email, he said that he has continued to "transition institutional knowledge" to Menlo Park's administrative services department since his separation from his previous role on December 31.
"Serving the city of Menlo Park as city manager for the last three years, and seven years before that as assistant city manager, has been a great honor. Menlo Park is a wonderful place to live and work, filled with beautiful parks and engaged residents," said Jerome-Robinson in a statement.
"I’m proud of our city’s accomplishments, including the incredible adaptations and technological improvements made to continue providing city services during an extended worldwide pandemic. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such a great team of dedicated and professional public servants," she added.
Jerome-Robinson could not immediately respond to a number of questions The Almanac sent her. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Council members highlighted Jerome-Robinson's longtime service to the city.
"It's a loss for the city that the city manager has decided to step down before her retirement, but I totally respect and understand the decision," Councilman Drew Combs told The Almanac. "As I reflect on the city manager's tenure I have to admit a degree of disappointment that some recent actions by my City Council colleagues made a challenging job even more challenging. As Mr. Murphy assumes this role in an interim capacity, my hope is that he's afforded a bit more grace."
Among those actions was the decision by three council members, Mayor Betsy Nash, Vice Mayor Jen Wolosin and Councilwoman Cecilia Taylor, to hold a closed session meeting last October without the knowledge of then-Mayor Drew Combs' or Jerome-Robinson, to discuss a matter allegedly related to Jerome-Robinson's performance.
"I can't express enough thanks to Starla Jerome-Robinson," Councilman Ray Mueller said. "She came out of retirement and led the city for over three and a half years, and led us through the pandemic ... I'm incredibly thankful for her service with the city."
"We are going to miss Starla. She has been an important part of our city government for many years. She has helped us work through the difficulties of the COVID pandemic," Mayor Betsy Nash said in a statement provided to The Almanac. "Starla is a long-time resident of Menlo Park and I look forward to seeing her around town."
"I really appreciate Starla's years of service to the City and I wish her well on her retirement," Vice Mayor Jen Wolosin said.
"I appreciate Starla for coming out of retirement to serve Menlo Park. And I thank her for dealing with the unprecedented challenges over the past two years," Councilwoman Cecilia Taylor said.
Justin Murphy, a longtime city employee who is slated the new interim city manager, began working for Menlo Park as an associate planner in 1996 before rising through the ranks as a development services manager, assistant community development director, public works director, and most recently, deputy city manager, a role he has been serving in for nearly three years, according to LinkedIn. He holds a bachelor's degree from Stanford University in urban studies and a Master of Public Administration degree from the Harvard Kennedy School.
The City Council has selected The Hawkins Group to conduct a nationwide search for a new city manager and the application period was open through early January. Over the next few months, the City Council plans to consider applications for the permanent City Manager position, according to a press statement.