The Arroyo Grande City Council may need to consider increasing the city manager's salary if it wants to attract highly qualified, committed candidates to fill the position.

"As soon as I saw the salary, I got worried," Bobbi Peckham, of Peckham & McKenney, told a crowd of about 20 people that attended a community forum Monday designed to solicit input, comments and feedback relating to the recruitment of a new city manager for Arroyo Grande.

The city hired Peckham & McKenney in November to recruit candidates for the city manager's job that has been held for the last 14 years by Steve Adams, who announced late last year that he was resigning and has since been placed on paid administrative leave. His current salary is $157,296.

"Your salary is what concerns me with this recruitment," Peckham said, adding she expected the figure to be much higher, more in the range of $165,000 to 180,000 annually. "It's very low."

A shrinking candidate pool, coupled with a lack of training, the oftentimes intense public scrutiny that accompanies positions such as city manager, and a low salary will also make it difficult to find someone qualified to lead the city's day-to-day affairs, Peckham said.

"It's wonderful (here), but it's not an easy place to be," she added, referring to the relatively high cost of living in Arroyo Grande. "I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's a challenge."

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Recruitment is anticipated to take several months, and Peckham said she believes a new city manager will be in place by April. The deadline to submit a resume to the recruiting firm to be considered for the position is Feb. 6.

Adams, along with the then-City Council, were thrust into the spotlight in early August 2014 when it became public knowledge he and Community Development Director Teresa McClish went to City Hall after hours to sober up after drinking at a restaurant grand opening in the Village.

That July 3 incident involved several members of the Police Department who responded to City Hall on a "check-the-welfare" call after McClish's husband reported his wife had failed to return home following the grand opening and wasn't answering her cellphone. Months of allegations of a cover-up by the council and Adams followed.

The consensus from those who spoke during Monday's forum is that they would all like the next city manager to be someone who can unify the community and help heal past hurts.

"After all the fracturing that has gone on, we need someone who can bring people back together," said Vicki Meagher. 

Individuals unable to attend the community forum can share their comments/suggestions by contacting Peckham by email at bobbi@peckhamandmckenney.com.

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