Town Square

Where is the new Atherton City Manager?

Original post made by observer, Atherton: other, on Jun 24, 2012

It has been almost five months since John Danielson resigned his post as Atherton’s interim city manager. Where is the replacement? It is not as if Theresa Della Santa is not doing a great job as interim but why does it take so long to find a replacement? The Council has spent a lot of money with search firms to date, and I find it impossible to believe they have not been able to find a suitable replacement for this important town officer.
After watching the video of the June 20th Council meeting there are some clues. They spent considerable time discussing the legal procedure (change in ordinance) for removing a city manager. Both Widmer and Dobbie wanted the City Attorney to draft language that contained the minimum amount of procedures for cause and minimizing the protection for the town for removal. In addition, McKeithen wanted to be able to directly communicate with town employees on performance issues. There were other issues brought forward but, in general, they reflect the philosophy of Widmer, McKeithen and Dobbie that they want tight control to be able to micromanage finances, human resources as well as operational matters. The concept of a strong city manager-weak council form of government is totally lost on them.
So perhaps it is really easy to understand why they have not gotten a new city manager. What sort of applicant doing due diligence on the town’s past experience with city managers, viewing council meetings and observing behavior of the current council, particularly Widmer, McKeithen and Dobbie would want to work for these three?


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Posted by Apples and Oranges
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2012 at 9:12 am

Part of the problem might be found in the compensation. The Council approved salary levels in its last meeting. The City Manager's top salary is now capped at $160,000.

The Mayor suggests the Holbrook Palmer Park residence's value should be considered part of the compensation. Fair enough. Unfortunately, it carries different values to different candidates. A local candidate might value it less than someone from an outside community. Other candidates might find living in a public park does not afford the privacy they desire.

What's the value of the City Manager's house? Based on published information (below), to get to median for the sampling, the house would need to be worth $66,000 / year to the candidate. What kind of house could one rent for $5,500 a month that might be a better value?

Of course, you could question whether median compensation is appropriate for an Atherton City Manager. Atherton's City Manager shouldn't require the skills of South San Francisco, Foster City, or Daly City. But, do they need the skills of Half Moon Bay? Hillsborough is a city of similar character (wealth, property size, community values). Their City Manager is at the top end of the scale. Is that where Atherton needs to be?

These numbers are taken from the San Jose Mercury News public employee database. The represent the summed base + misc compensation figures.

$160,000 Atherton's Offer (not including the City Manager's house)

$191,036 Half Moon Bay
$191,364 Colma
$203,809 San Bruno
$217,828 Brisbane
$220,432 Burlingame
$224,183 Foster City
$226,236 Redwood City
$229,950 Belmont
$233,855 Redwood City
$237,337 San Mateo
$240,792 South San Francisco
$278,489 Daly City
$383,191 Hillsborough

$226,236 Median
$236,808 Average

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Posted by observer
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm

They do not need to pay very much as they have three Junior City Managers available to help out, second guess, and offer their expertise and any given time reducing the work load.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm

The Colma deal sounds awesome & much easier to deal w/a town full of dead people than Atherton.