Residency: Should City Managers Live in the City They Serve?

Most city managers are required to live in the city in which they work. In the world of the new normal, however, spouses are reluctant to relocate farther away from their jobs, children are reluctant to change schools, and houses can be difficult to sell. In addition, some cities have housing prices that exceed city salaries.

Manteca, California (population 67,096): Manteca’s next city manager will have to live within 30 miles of the city. That’s the language in a proposed revision to a city ordinance governing the residency requirement for the city manager. And instead of saying they have to do so within a reasonable time as the current wording does, the proposed language gives them six months to comply. Meeting that requirement won’t be a problem for Steve Pinkerton’s replacement. Assistant City Manager Karen McLaughlin is expected to have a five-year contract to serve as city manager approved at the same meeting Tuesday the ordinance change is being considered. The current language does require the city manager to live in Manteca but it allows for a murky “reasonable time” to accomplish that goal. Pinkerton never did move to Manteca. Instead he remained at his Brookside home in Stockton. Pinkerton, who is now the city manager for Davis, is buying a house in that community to comply with Davis’ requirement that the city manager reside within municipal limits. McLaughlin has said over the years that she “lives in Manteca and sleeps in Modesto.” She lives in the northern part of Modesto near Kaiser hospital within 30 miles of Manteca. McLaughlin made it clear to her five bosses on the council that she was not going to be moving to Manteca. She indicated that she is nearing retirement and that selling her house would result in a significant loss. Pinkerton, when pressed after critics started questioning when he was going to move to Manteca about two years ago, noted the housing market prices made it difficult to do so in terms of what he could get for his current home. That, however, wasn’t a problem when making the decision to buy in Davis. Under the contract before the council Tuesday McLaughlin will earn $144,690 in pay prior to taxes. That is some $20,000 less than Pinkerton was making. The contracts for both reflect higher rates of pay but that was before compensation reductions of 23.4 percent are factored into the equation. The compensation reductions are part of a citywide across-the-board cut in pay to balance the city budget and to eliminate the structured deficit. Read more at the Manteca Bulletin.