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Atherton councilman Bill Widmer is new city manager in Rancho Palos Verdes

Original post made on Dec 18, 2014

Bill Widmer, who on Nov. 4 was elected to his second term on the Atherton City Council, has been named the new city manager in Rancho Palos Verdes in Southern California. He says that, for now, he is not moving from Atherton and will remain on the council.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, December 18, 2014, 11:17 AM

Comments (34)

Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

Congratulations Mr. Widmer you'll do great. Looks like SurfAir might have a new customer.


Posted by Giles Lormier
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Dec 18, 2014 at 4:56 pm

I agree with Mr deGolia. Mr Widmer should resign now and the Council should immediately take the legal steps to replace him. The movie that in which he "has an apartment down there and will come back can" doesn't end well. I voted for the man, but now I think he should do the right thing and exit quickly and gracefully.


Posted by Duplicitous
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 18, 2014 at 8:01 pm

A question for the the "Expect More" and "Atherton Wins with Widmer" crowd: Would you have voted for him if you knew he was taking on a full time job in Southern California in January?

After years of complaining about the unfunded liabilities in the PERS pension system, Widmer's going to belly up to the trough. He's going to get his share of the defined benefit he complained so loudly about. It's laughable. At $215k a year, it won't be insignificant either.

Degolia is on the money. It's no wonder he garnered the most votes. Widmer needs to step aside and let the council bring on someone who is committed to Atherton, not Palos Verdes 400+ miles away.

Council members should be required to attend meetings in person, particularly if they are going to cast a vote. That's the least they owe the electorate that voted them into office.


Posted by come on
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Mr. Widmer is clearly very capable and Atherton is fortunate to have him as a council member. He had no way of knowing that the Rancho Palos Verdes council would choose him over all the other applicants, and he had no way of knowing how the election would turn out. We should all be so lucky as to to find ourselves in a similar situation.


Posted by Serious?
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Sounds like they picked a guy with no government experience who is going to make a hobby out of managing the City of Rancho Palos Verdes. What were they thinking?


Posted by born Atherton, live PV
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 19, 2014 at 11:02 am

I grew up in Atherton and had a VERY involved family in that community, now I live in Palos Verdes for the past 20 years where I have raised my family. Palos Verdes is a beautiful place with many of the same values that Atherton has. I am disappointed to hear that Mr. Widmer is not taking his new job in RPV seriously by continuing to live in Atherton and keeping an apt in our town. He needs to move his family to RPV and become involved in the community in order to manage it. His family will certainly survive slumming it in our little "beach community". I wish his good luck and hope he does the right thing for both towns.


Posted by MEMBERONE
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 19, 2014 at 12:20 pm

What was Widmer thinking: "Oh I'll run for this Atherton Council job and see if a better gig comes along...and if it does, I'll blow off Atherton."
Thanks for your dedication, Widmer.

Please, head south and by the way, don't bother running for any office.


Posted by MEMBERONE
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 19, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Hah, now I get it..."Atherton wins with Widmer."


Posted by Huh?
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Dec 19, 2014 at 1:29 pm

It sure sounds like Widmer needs to decide if wants to be on the Council in Atherton or managing the city down south. He can't have it both ways. You can't serve two masters. And if you do, neither will be well served. Please decide Bill,for the good of both cities. Stop the madness, just decide, one way or the other.


Posted by Fun, fun, fun
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 19, 2014 at 4:18 pm

"I think it will be fun." Mr. Widmer joked, "I've been looking for something to do for a while." I wonder if he said that on his interview!? No government experience at all, it must have been a pretty bad pool of applicants - oh well, he has disrespected Atherton residents for years to further his own agenda, I for one am happy to see him go.


Posted by PV homeowner
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2014 at 4:30 pm

A different approach will always look ominous to the status quo, particularly to a government or union employee. Private sector business and local government experience? Looks like RPV got it right. The Atherton council is completely voluntary with no benefits at all. Why shouldn't he put his family and career first? All of us do, or should. I have heard from two people that have worked with Widmer in the past and they both say he is a terrific manager and leader. RPV needs a fresh clean start and Widmer looks to be just that.


Posted by Huh?
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Dec 19, 2014 at 4:45 pm

He's off to a great start. Good luck to you!


Posted by Wow!
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2014 at 5:06 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by PVE'r
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2014 at 5:19 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by mcnertney
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 20, 2014 at 10:59 am

mcnertney is a registered user.

Dear Bill, Please do what is Just & Beneficial to both towns. Step down to allow Rose Hau to become a council member. The electorate clearly approves of her as she was only behind Mike Lempres by 29 votes who did become a council member. Save Atherton the cost of a special election down the road and focus on your new challenging job. I believe this would be beneficial and since you talked a lot about saving Atherton's money, it's a bit puzzling why you don't resign. It is the honorable thing to do. Merry Christmas, Pace & Bene, Anne


Posted by Kathy McKeithen
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 20, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Kathy McKeithen is a registered user.

It is with great sadness that I have read the derogatory comments posted here regarding Bill Widmer, a man who has served the Town of Atherton with his heart and soul. As I read these remarks, I cannot help but wonder how many of you have actually attended Council meetings on a regular basis? How many have witnessed the interaction between Council members and the degree to which they are prepared or appear to know what they are talking about? Do you know that Bill Widmer is frequently the one who is willing to compromise in order to find a solution to a problem (do not merely believe me – the Almanac noted this fact in endorsing him and refusing to endorse another candidate)? Insofar as most Council meetings are sparsely attended, it would appear that most “insight” (including many of these Town Square comments) might be based on potential vindictive social gossip and what is read in the papers. – a poor substitute for first hand knowledge. You fail even to have the courage of conviction to give your names. At least one of you has tried to post multiples times under aliases – rather pathetic I would say.

Several years ago the Town of Atherton was on the verge of bankruptcy – this is a not speculation, --this is a fact that has been documented in the Council papers. Bill Widmer was one of the leaders who made the difficult decisions that steered Atherton on the right course, a course which (together with record real estate taxes) has allowed the Town to spend more money on its police, code enforcement, trees and many other services than it has ever spent before. Bill has helped to secure Atherton’s long-term health for the future. This includes helping to avoid potential litigation that looked likely to surface, working for almost a year to analyze extensively potential refuse rates in order to secure the best rate practicable, revising outdated purchasing and other Atherton policies, providing for an irrevocable PERS trust, formulating an IT policy and so very much more almost none of you reading this will ever know about. And what is Bill’s payment? Generally, grief.

Bill Widmer is an honorable, trustworthy, honest man. He is without guile, smart, selfless and an incredibly hard worker. I have co-chaired three search committees for new Town Managers during the 12 years I was on the Town Council and I have reviewed probably over two hundred resumes. Were I to have received Bill Widmer’s resume I would, no doubt, be impressed. As I and my fellow Council members have reviewed these resumes we have found that the pool of applicants for the Town Manager position is not what one would expect – many are not of a high caliber. Bill Widmer is. As for government experience … Bill Widmer has absorbed an incredible amount of government knowledge in his four years on the Council, probably more than many of the applicants we have interviewed. To the extent he might not know something, he is the kind of person who is not afraid to admit it. To the extent he needs to learn, he is the hardest worker I know.

I do not know why Bill Widmer wants to stay on the Atherton Town Council and simultaneously work in Rancho Palos Verdes approximately 400 miles away. Perhaps he has some unfinished business here in a town he loves. Perhaps the parties want to make sure the fit is right. For whatever the reason, who are we to question him? He has done right by our Town and he has a right to make a livelihood. We hired our own Town Manager over two years ago on the basis that he would move within a few months to Atherton from Marin County, yet he continues to commute and so far as I know will continue to do so for as long as he holds the position. He apparently has done so good a job that he has received salary increases as well. He even recommended Mr. Widmer for the job in Rancho Palos Verdes.

I have heard that there are those in this Town who are now trying to interfere with Mr. Widmer’s position in Rancho Palos Verdes. Shame on them. It is not enough to say untruthful things about him anonymously in a Town Square, now some feel the need to reach further. Why? Because Mr. Widmer has questioned what he sees as unnecessary expenses? Because he has tried to protect Atherton taxpayers? Because he is doing his job?

We should thank Bill Widmer for being willing to stand up for us all in the face of adversity and wish him Godspeed. In the event a position in Rancho Palos Verdes and serving on the Atherton Town Council should prove to be too much, Bill Widmer will unquestionably be the first to admit it and do what is right by us all. If you truly know him, you know him to be that kind of man.


Posted by Interesting...
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Interesting... is a registered user.

[part removed.]

In regards to Mr. Widmer's appointment to the RPV CIty Manager position, I would offer the following:

Fact: Mr. Widmer has absolutely no firsthand experience at managing or even assisting in managing a municipal government. His experience has been limited to being an elected official, which is not nearly the same as managing the day-to-day, nuts and bolts of a City operation.

Fact: Mr. Widmer has indicated in this interview and in other interviews that he intends to remain in his City Council seat in Atherton, which is very troubling, to say the least. If he is truly interested in serving the City of RPV and, conversely, acknowledging the fact that he can no longer adequately serve the City of Atherton, he needs to make a clean break from Atherton by resigning his City Council seat immediately.

Fact: Mr. Widmer has made comments in this article, as well as in other articles, that he looks upon the RPV City Manager position as something "fun to do" and that he has "been looking for something to do for a while." This speaks to how seriously (or not) Mr. Widmer intends to apply himself to this highly responsible job in the City of RPV. These cavalier comments, along with him splitting his time between Atherton and RPV, tells me that this is just something he wants to add to his resume rather than a sincere desire to serve the RPV community.

I hope the RPV City Council takes these "facts" into consideration when they meet in closed session on December 22, at 7:00 PM, at City Hall, to reconsider the contract with Bill Widmer.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 21, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Interesting - I can assure you that McKeithen has no family relationship to Widmer and that she is highly qualified to make the comments she has posted above having served many years on the Atherton City Council and being an astute political observer.


Posted by Interesting...
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Interesting... is a registered user.

Yeah, Peter, like I said, a political supporter. No objectivity present...


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 21, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And uninteresting - what are YOUR qualifications for being considered an informed observer?


Posted by Interesting...
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2014 at 11:23 am

Interesting... is a registered user.

Peter, I have worked in public sector executive level recruitment for the past 19 years. And yours?


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 22, 2014 at 12:44 pm

pogo is a registered user.

I wonder if this concern would exist if another member of the council took a job in another city but still maintained their residence in Atherton?

Is the concern because Mr. Widmer took a job in the public sector? What if Mr. Widmer's job were with Lockheed Martin in Los Angeles instead of City Manager of Rancho Palos Verdes?

As long as a member of the council maintains their principal residence in Atherton, this is a non-issue.

What do you do when another member goes to Europe for the entire summer? For all we know, Mr. Widmer will spend more time in Atherton than other members.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 22, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

interesting asks - " And yours?"

The fact that you would need to ask suggests that you are both uninterested in and uninformed about our community.

Over 30 years in public service.
6 years in the military including service in Vietnam.
A smokejumper with USFS.
Elected three times as a Director of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.
17 Years in the private sector.
4 years as a Palo Alto Planning Commissioner.


Posted by Interesting...
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Interesting... is a registered user.

Nice enough resume[part removed], but very little of it pertains to the question at hand: Is Bill Widmer a good choice for City Manager of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes?

Based on my previous analysis of the facts, the answer would be a resounding "no."

Pogo, I'm not exactly sure what your point is but you seem to be making the case that it's OK for Widmer to be living and working 400+ miles away from the City where he is serving on the City Council. Based on most of the comments here, and comments from the Atherton Mayor and Council members, this is not OK, and I can understand why they feel this way.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 22, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

uninteresting states - "but very little of it pertains to the question at hand: Is Bill Widmer a good choice for City Manager of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes?"

On the contrary - I have extensive experience in both public and private management and have worked closely with Widmer. You have neither public or private "Management" experience and have never even met Widmer.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

The City of Rancho Palos Verdes already made that decision and they like Atherton has done with its manager think it's ok for Bill Widmer to live in a different city.

San Carlos City Manager lives in Pacifica.

San Mateo County Manager lives out of County.


Posted by Interesting...
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Interesting... is a registered user.

Lol...Petey. You have no idea what the needs of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes are. Just because you are a friend/political supporter of Widmer doesn't make you an expert on what Rancho Palos Verdes needs. For one thing, they don't need a City Manager who has no idea of what being a City Manager is.

In speaking to members of the community, no one I've spoken with is supportive of a City Manager who is on the fence as to which community he wants to live in. If he truly wants to be City Manager of RPV, let him relinquish his City Council seat in Atherton and move to RPV. Why won't he commit to this? Is he planning on jumping ship after a few months after enhancing his resume?

Michael G. Stogner, your comments are equally laughable. The distance between San Carlos and Pacifica is about 14 miles. The distance between Atherton and RPV is over 400 miles. LOL!!!


Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 22, 2014 at 6:26 pm

pogo is a registered user.

"Pogo, ... it's OK for Widmer to be living and working 400+ miles away from the City where he is serving on the City Council."

1. Perhaps you should read the article BEFORE commenting. Mr. Widmer is not living 400+ miles away. He is maintaining his primary residence in Atherton.

2. My point is that many elected officials spend extended periods of time away from their home. Provided you maintain your PRIMARY residence within the city, you are fine. If you want to establish a percentage of time at your primary residence, have at it... but almost every politician in Washington DC will fail.

This is an issue for voters, not pundits.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 22, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

One lesson from this thread - never hire an executive recruiter who makes judgements based on a single newspaper report and zero direct contact with the individual whom he is evaluating.


Posted by Interesting...
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Interesting... is a registered user.

I can evaluate someone to a great extent by looking at his resume. In the case of Widmer, he has never, ever served as a City Manager in his entire career. For me, that would eliminate him from consideration out of the box.

I'm not sure what Bob Murray was thinking when he recommended this guy, but I can only surmise that some of the RPV City Council members were impressed with him (for whatever reason) and made sure he advanced in the process. I have a lot of respect for Bob Murray, but in this case I think he was asleep at the wheel.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 22, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

interesting states - "I can evaluate someone to a great extent by looking at his resume."

Have you seen Widmer resume?


Posted by Interesting...
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Interesting... is a registered user.

Yep...his resume is posted on the City of Rancho Palos Verdes web site, as part of the December 16 City Council agenda, under the last item under Regular Business, entitled "Contract with New City Manager."

You might also want to read the link "Late Correspondence" under the December 22 City Council Special Meeting Agenda, in which the City Council is reconsidering the contract with Bill Widmer.

Apparently, I'm not the only one expressing shock and dismay at the selection of this guy.


Posted by Barbara Wood
Almanac staff writer
on Dec 22, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

The Rancho Palos Verdes City Council voted tonight to rescind Mr. Widmer's job offer. In a closed session with the Rancho Palos Verdes city attorney, the council voted 4-1 to rescind the job offer it had made to Mr. Widmer and continue with a search for a new city manager. Web Link


Posted by Interesting...
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2014 at 11:33 pm

Interesting... is a registered user.

So, Peter, did you find all of this "interesting?" :-)


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