Transitions: Brentwood, CA; Eureka, MO; Reedsburg, WI and more

Brentwood, California (population 51,481): Although Donna Landeros was known for her sound fiscal judgment during the nearly seven years she served as Brentwood’s city manager, her heart remains in parks and recreation, where she started her career in government 41 years ago. In her final days as city manager last week, Landeros savored the progress on the Civic Center under construction adjacent to her office. She was thrilled about the fountain that was being installed, but one of her favorite elements of the plaza in front of the new building is the children’s water play area. She even gave up a portion of her office for it to be built.

Landeros is retiring to spend more time with her husband in their Lake Tahoe home. Landeros leaves Brentwood after leading it through a period as one of the fastest-growing cities in the state before the housing collapse saddled it with plummeting home values and a rash of foreclosures. But Brentwood weathered the downturn better than many other fast-growing communities, which some have attributed to the city’s sound fiscal management under Landeros, 62.

Landeros had never visited Brentwood before she applied for the city manager position seven years ago. Her perception of the community has not changed much since then. The City Council was equally impressed with Landeros’ experience. Former Brentwood Mayor Brian Swisher said Landeros, who was previously city manager in Ventura, prepared the city for the then-unknown economic downturn and pointed out areas of concern with the city’s finances at a time when the economy was still strong.

Landeros, who is being replaced by Assistant City Manager Paul Eldredge, said guiding the city’s budget policy through the recession and keeping the city fiscally sound was her greatest challenge. This summer, the Contra Costa County Civil Grand Jury applauded Brentwood for its fiscal management, calling it a model for other cities. Landeros and Director of Finance Pam Ehler worked on a 10-year fiscal forecast, quickly becoming strong working partners and friends. With Ehler focusing on the details, Landeros said she liked the fiscal policy piece of the project. Landeros’ problem-solving and listening skills, combined with a good sense of humor, allowed her to build a productive team at City Hall, according to Director of Parks and Recreation Craig Bronzan. Landeros also built relationships with other local agencies, including the city’s two school districts and neighboring communities. Liberty Union High School District Superintendent Eric Volta said Landeros always had the best interests of the city in mind and cooperated with other agencies.

Landeros started her civic career working in parks and recreation for Los Angeles County. She went to Butte County and worked on budgets there, and later became the Yolo County administrator. Before coming to Brentwood, Landeros was the first permanent female city manager in Ventura County. When Landeros arrived in Ventura, she worked to implement the city’s downtown plan, which it had just adopted. Landeros said she saw the potential in Brentwood for downtown revitalization. She believes the new Civic Center, which was opposed by some in the city as unnecessary and too costly, will be a key piece because it was designed for the city’s ultimate build-out. Read more at the Mercury News.

Eureka, Missouri (population 10,701): Melissa Brown’s first few weeks as Eureka city-administrator-in-waiting have been a learning experience. But thanks to her experience in the business world, she might be able to teach municipal governments a few things, too. Prior to arriving in Eureka, where she began work Aug. 15, Brown demonstrated industriousness in other, seemingly divergent fields. The 1994 graduate of East Peoria Community High School spent five years in media and marketing with The Nielsen Co. – the fabled corporation that tracks ratings for television programs. Brown went from the Dakotas to Tennessee and everywhere in between as she visited homes and explained to selected TV viewers their roles in Nielsen’s media studies. The Nielsen job came after five years spent at Brown & Williamson, a tobacco company. Brown negotiated contracts between retailers and her half-namesake employer. Before all that, and after her 1998 graduation from the University of Illinois, Brown was a social worker for Catholic Social Services in Peoria. In those previous jobs, communication abilities were a necessity, Brown said. That’s part of what Brown believes she can do for Eureka in her new role, which involves supervising city personnel, consulting with Mayor Scott Punke and the City Council and implementing their policies. Management skills Brown acquired at her previous jobs also have helped her in this one, she said. She was responsible for hiring and training immediate subordinates. Brown’s lack of a local-government background doesn’t appear to be an issue in Eureka. Once the training wheels are gone, Brown plans to focus on commercial development and growth in the city, as well as finding a balance between providing day-to-day services and meeting long-term goals. Read more at the Peoria Journal Star.

Reedsburg, Wisconsin (population 10,014): John Dougherty no longer is Reedsburg’s city administrator. Dougherty, who was hired in August 2008, has not been performing up to Common Council expectations after multiple performance reviews, Mayor Dave Estes said. On Monday, during a closed session of the Common Council, members voted, 6-3, to let him go effective today. Dougherty told the Times-Press on Friday that he would be looking for another position and refused to comment further. He will receive 180 days of severance pay, or about $40,000. Dougherty is leaving a little less than one year before his four-year contract expires, Estes said. At $80,000 per year plus benefits, he was one of the highest-paid city officials in 2011, second only to the police chief. Dougherty’s performance reviews from February 2010 and February 2011 show he had ongoing issues both with the Council and department heads dating back to 2009. The February 2011 review for 2010 shows that instead of getting better, Dougherty’s issues with city staff worsened. It also states that he engaged in what some city staff considered unethical conduct by trying to use his influence to change accident reports and threatening to disband a department during union negotiations. Read more at the Reedsburg Time-Press.

Holbrook, Massachusetts (population 9,644): Former Quincy mayor William J. Phelan has been offered the position of town administrator in Holbrook, but his contract hinges on whether he and the Board of Selectmen can agree on how Phelan, a lawyer with a practice in Quincy, will divide his time. Phelan intends to continue practicing law, as he has since March, when he began serving as Holbrook’s interim town administrator. The selectmen are willing to allow him flexible hours, but some have questioned whether Phelan can predict what hours he will spend in town. The board wants Phelan to post some or all of his hours a week in advance, so Town Hall employees and the public know when they can find him. During deliberations on Tuesday, they could not agree on how many hours he should post. The board voted, 5 to 0, to appoint Phelan. At the close of the meeting, he left the room quietly. He initially declined comment, but when pressed on the issue of posting hours, he said the town “definitely deserves accountability.’’ Selectmen lauded Phelan for his hard work as the interim administrator, his experience running a city of more than 92,000, and his knowledge of state government. Phelan was elected mayor of Quincy in 2001, lost the seat to Thomas P. Koch in 2007, then tried unsuccessfully to regain the seat in 2009. Contract negotiations are expected to begin this week. Town Meeting appropriated a salary of $76,400 for this fiscal year. Read more at The Boston Globe.

Kingston, Massachusetts (population 5,774): Jim Thomas is set to begin duties as Kingston’s new town manager on Nov. 1. Thomas, the town manager in West Warwick, R.I., has signed a contract, the terms of which are not being released until after selectmen sign the hard copy. The board voted unanimously to offer him the job last week. A reception for the public to welcome him to Kingston will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, prior to the board meeting at 7 p.m. Thomas said he’s excited about the new opportunity in Kingston and was pleased with the unanimous vote. Selectmen interviewed Thomas twice. After the first interview, three board members said they were ready to vote. At a second interview last Thursday, the board asked him about a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him and other officials in a town in Colorado that ended with an order for the plaintiff to pay the defendants’ legal fees. The board also asked about another town’s decision to rescind an employment offer after a change in the composition of the board, an accusation by a comedian that Thomas made derogatory remarks about women involved in a Girls Behaving Badly event at Maine bar, and Thomas’ decision to not accept a job offer in Ohio. Thomas said he wasn’t offended by the questions and welcomed the opportunity to clear the air. Another finalist Troy Clarkson, the town manager in Bridgewater, withdrew from consideration, citing a desire to remain in Bridgewater, the board said. A third finalist, Carter Terenzini, the town administrator in Moultonborough, N.H., did not have a second interview. Read more at the Patriot Ledger.

Belton, South Carolina (population 4,219): The spotlight will be on Michelle Ricketson when she makes her public debut Tuesday as Belton’s new city administrator. Ricketson was hired last month to replace former city administrator David Watson, who retired in July after nine years on the job. Like Watson, who previously served as Anderson County’s administrator, Ricketson has an extensive background in county government. Ricketson was working as the county’s community relations director until her position was eliminated in a belt-tightening move in July. Ricketson, who will earn $48,000 annually as Belton’s city administrator, will start work today, Mayor Rufus Callaham said. She then will attend her first council meeting since taking the job on Tuesday. Read more at the Independent Mail.

Standish, Michigan (population 1,536): Standish’s new part-time interim city manager now has a contract. The Standish City Council voted unanimously to approve Curt Hillman’s contract Thursday, Sept. 29. According to the contract Hillman agreed to, Hillman will receive $1,555.11 per month over the next nine and a half months. Mayor Mark Winslow said the rate is based upon what was left over in the city’s line item budget after former city manager Mike Moran vacated the position. Hillman’s contract will last until the end of the city’s fiscal year, which ends in June 2012. Winslow said the city is pleased with the way things have been going since Hillman took over the position at the beginning of September. Winslow said hiring a full-time city manager is not the best option for the city at this time, even though a number of candidates have submitted their resumes. Winslow told the council that Hillman has done a good job since taking over. Read more at the Arenac County Independent.

Betterton, Maryland (population 471): Jannice Edwards, circuit rider town manager, submitted her resignation at the Tuesday mayor and council meeting. Edwards, who succeeded Dave Teel at the end of February, said in e-mail that she was leaving the position to spend more time with her family. There has been no word on a replacement. Read more at The Star Democrat.

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