More than eight months after ousting City Manager Jim Holgersson, the City Council is expected Tuesday to authorize the mayor to hire an executive search firm to find Modesto’s next top administrator.
The proposed contract with Sacramento-based CPS HR Consulting would not exceed $23,500, according to a city report. CPS estimates it will take 14 to 16 weeks from its initial meeting with the council to develop a plan, recruit and hire a city manager, according to its proposal to the council. This comes after the City Council has met in closed session several times since late September to discuss how to fill the position.
The job will come with plenty of challenges, including dealing with a divided City Council. Council members can bicker and engage in long, confusing discussions during meetings. And the council was divided over whether Holgersson needed to go. He was with the city for nearly three years before leaving March 31.
Councilwoman Kristi Ah You said she was limited in what she could say because of the closed session discussions.
“I was hoping it would have happened much sooner,” she said about filling the position. “I think our council has a hard time coming to decisions at times. We have a divided council. ... We’ve had some growing pains over letting go of the city manager.”
Councilman Doug Ridenour reiterated his position that the council should have had a succession plan in place before Holgersson left. “I think before making a decision of that significance there should have been some discussion (on succession),” he said. “You cannot blame anyone. It’s a responsibility of the entire council.”
Both deferred to Mayor Ted Brandvold when asked why it has taken the council so long to fill the position. Brandvold said he was limited in what he could say because of the closed session talks but agreed with Ah You’s assessment of the council.
Deputy City Manager Joe Lopez has served first as acting and since July interim city manager. Ridenour said Lopez has done an unbelievable job during trying circumstances, which includes the departures of key employees. The city also has uncovered problems with its procurement and contracting procedures going back over several years, including city departments buying more goods and services than what the council or contracts had authorized.
Lopez has said he would apply if the council recruited for the position. But when asked Monday by text message, he said: “Out of respect for the Council process, I do not feel it would be appropriate for me to make any public comments about the recruitment.”
Modesto is not the only local government looking for a city manager. Turlock recently announced it is seeking to hire an executive firm to help it find a city manager. This is after Turlock scrapped a previous search that cost more than $13,000 because differences on the council erupted into bickering over filling the job. Turlock is trying to fill the position after the August retirement of Gary Hampton.
The Modesto City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chambers of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316