The City Council is on the hunt for a new city manager after three council members successfully railroaded the last one out of town.
Two council members, Jim Mosby and Victor Vega, had publicly stated last year they “hadn’t had an opportunity to provide input into the job description” and apparently reasoned that if they could get Patrick Wiemiller out of town they could somehow improve it.
Well, now they have a chance. Odds are they will want someone who will bow and scrape to their every whim. If they find anyone willing to take the job, knowing the current political climate in Lompoc, the city may suffer. It will take a strong leader to deal with overbearing council members.
There are well-established professional standards to guide their choice — requiring a master’s degree in public administration or fiscal management, experience preparing and managing $25-30-million budgets, and managing 300-plus municipal employees seem to be reasonable qualifications.
But online recruitment suggests that “any combination of training, education and experience which demonstrates an ability to perform the duties of the position are qualifying.”
It further states “possession of a master’s degree in public administration or other closely-related field, and five years of increasingly responsible public-sector management experience, preferably at the director level in one or more departments. Experience as a city administrator or city manager is highly desirable.”
This seems to leave a lot of wiggle room during selection interviews.
Since none of the council members possess any of these skills or have ever managed a municipality, they may be ill-equipped to evaluate candidates, but whether they are qualified or not they will choose the next leader of city government.
Whomever they select has some challenges ahead — a shrinking General Fund revenue stream, an ever-increasing low-income family population, a growing homeless population, removal of large tracts of commercial space and apartment complexes from the tax rolls by nonprofit projects to serve the homeless and low-income families, and a multitude of code enforcement issues are just a few.
Add to that the immediate need to prepare the next two-year budget and the potential to educate new council members following the November election on the process and working with an unfamiliar staff will be challenging.
But the most challenging aspect of this job will be dealing with egos of Mosby and Vega. Mosby thinks of himself as the only one on the council who possesses the knowledge necessary to create a city budget. His misrepresentation of the information he reads by the volumes and reliance on outdated and discredited studies and draft documents to press his case distracts from the quality of the debate.
I sometimes wonder if Vega has even read some of the staff reports, considering the questions he asks, which are clearly explained therein. He can always be counted on to vote with Mosby on almost every issue before the council, and his participation in the cannabis ad hoc was lack-luster at best. And his bullying strategy to remove the city manager and city attorney from the council dais was startling.
The city has sought input from the community on what attributes the successful applicant should have. It is a chance for you to weigh in on the process. Whether the council will even read the inputs and/or accept some of the suggestions if they are contrary to their desires is and will remain a mystery, since all of this will occur in a closed session.
We can only hope for satisfactory results.