Modesto set to hire interim city manager with 35 years of public sector experience

05/08/2014 4:08 PM

05/08/2014 4:47 PM

Modesto is poised to hire an interim city manager who has 35 years of public sector experience, including stints as a city manager in Arlington, Texas, and a deputy city manager in San Jose.

The City Council voted 7-0 this week to authorize staff to negotiate a contract for Jim Holgersson’s services. The council is expected to vote on the contract Tuesday, and Holgersson is expected to serve six to eight months until Modesto hires a permanent city manager.

City Manager Greg Nyhoff is leaving next week after nearly six years to become city manager of Oxnard in Southern California.

Councilman Bill Zoslocki – who headed up the search committee that reviewed interim city manager candidates – said Holgersson was clearly the strongest candidate among the four candidates the committee invited to interview for the position.

But Holgersson was dinged by a consultant’s study near the end of his tenure in Arlington. The Arlington City Council commissioned the study as part of his evaluation in 2011. He resigned after the study was completed after more than six years with the city.

The study consisted of about four dozen Arlington managers and supervisors completing questionnaires on Holgersson. They gave him high marks for confidence, communicating the city’s mission and goals, demonstrating a high level of expertise regarding his job, and developing and administrating budgets and projects.

But they gave him low marks for helping poor performers improve, developing strong and trusting relationships, not blaming others for failures and receiving the significant respect of peers. The consultants concluded Holgersson did not have the confidence of his team.

“There are numerous comments,” the consultants wrote about the statements from managers “that indicate that Jim’s leadership is not instrumental in the success of the city and some indicate that we have succeeded despite his leadership.”

Holgersson disagreed with the survey’s results. “It does not reflect my performance,” he said. “I was there over 6 1/2 years. It was a political tool for political purposes.”

Zoslocki said council members and staff discussed the consultant’s report in closed session. He said the report would warrant further consideration if the city were hiring Holgersson as its city manager.

“For an interim city manager it’s not a problem,” Zoslocki said. He added it’s common for city managers to face difficulties. The average tenure for a city manager or county executive was about seven years as of 2012, according to the International City/County Management Association.

Zoslocki said he was impressed that Holgersson oversaw Arlington, which is about twice the size of Modesto, during the Great Recession, when cities across the country scrambled to deal with budget shortfalls.

Holgersson lives in San Jose and is a partner with San Jose-based Management Partners, a consulting firm that works with governments. He said the contract for his services will be between Modesto and Management Partners.

He said he is eager to help Modesto address such issues as achieving financial sustainability, economic development and working more closely with its neighborhoods. Holgersson was San Jose’s deputy city manager for neighborhoods from 2000 to 2005.

“As I looked at the challenges facing Modesto and my own background,” he said, “I thought, ‘Wow this is a pretty good fit.’ ”

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