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Imagining the Next City Manager:

City Hall’s “Portrait of the Ideal Candidate” for City Manager, was included in the brochure inviting applications.

It said, “The City Manager must be a strategic creative thinker who has a proven track record in fiscal management, land use, consensus-building and the ability to deal with environmental and social issues such as sustainability, affordable housing, and homelessness. The ideal leader must value community participation and know how to facilitate input from citizens, commissions, and the City Council. He/she will have a reputation for intelligence, poise, and being calm under fire. He/she must have the flexibility and mind set to effect change within the agency as needed.

“Additionally, the ideal City Manager demonstrates: Strong fiscal management and insight; Knowledge of planning, land use, zoning, building and safety; A business attitude of running the agency, versus status quo; Superior listening and communication in all forms; Unquestionable ethics and integrity; A good antenna for community issues; Prudent risk-taking; Mentoring and developing excellence from City staff; Problem solving with a creative attitude; Teamwork, effective delegation and accountability; Fostering an administration of transparency; An openness to new ideas and the desire to be a leader.”

We wouldn’t veto someone with those skills, but we wouldn’t hire him or her either – unless he or she had other less tangible, but more valuable and vital talents and attributes.

1. He or she must not currently work for the City.

2. He or she must not simply want to be a leader, but, in fact, must be a leader, while, at the same time, realizing that he or she works for the people of Santa Monica, and that their priorities must be paramount.

3. He or she must have a natural affinity for off-beat, iconic, contrary towns, and off-beat, iconic, contrary residents.

4. He or she must have a keen sense of humor, but take the job very seriously.

5. He or she must be a wizard of a sort in order to effectively manage a staff of over 2,000 people who have got used to having their own way.

6. He or she must be willing and able to find, name, and fix the flaws in current City policies and plans, as well as closing the divide between City Hall and the people.

7. He or she must, under no circumstances, see the City as a business and its residents as customers.

8. He or she must have enough ego not to be bamboozled by the City staff, but not so much ego that he or she can’t enjoy having 84,000 bosses.

9. He or she must be endlessly curious, creative, imaginative and iconoclastic, and sufficiently confident to occasionally color outside the lines.10. His or her primary allegiance must be to Santa Monica and its residents, not to City Hall, and he or she must be passionately devoted to the preservation and refinement of this legendary beach town.

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