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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Transitions: Arlington, TX; Cabarrus County, NC; Berkeley, CA and more

Arlington, Texas (population 365,438): City Manager Jim Holgersson submitted his resignation under pressure Tuesday after City Council members told him that they were unhappy with his job performance and were seeking a change in leadership. The council and Holgersson have been working for a week to reach a severance agreement through the city attorney’s office, Mayor Robert Cluck said. As dictated by his contract, Holgersson will receive up to eight months of his $214,152 salary. If Holgersson finds a new job before eight months, he will receive only one month of pay from Arlington after the new position begins.

Holgersson, 60, said he didn’t know why the council wanted to see him go. Now on personal leave, he declined to discuss details of his exchange with the council over the past week. Holgersson said he plans to remain an Arlington resident. Cluck also declined to disclose specific issues council members had with Holgersson, who was appointed in 2005, because those discussions were held in executive session.

Bob Byrd, who has worked with the city for 25 years, was named interim city manager. Byrd said he does not plan to seek the job permanently. Byrd was deputy city manager for four years. A national search for Holgersson’s replacement is expected to begin within 30 days. Read more at the Star-Telegram.

Cabarrus County, North Carolina (population 178,011): John Day will retire from Cabarrus County on June 30, 2012, and step down as county manager on Sept. 30. Day will stay on the county payroll as a consultant. Deputy County Manager Mike Downs will step in to be interim county manager, beginning Monday. Downs has been in charge of county operations for the past eight years, and has worked for the county for 25 years.

Day steered the county through tough financial times since being named county manager in 2003. The county has a positive financial outlook from the credit rating agencies, a turn-around from 2004, when the county had a negative outlook. Day has championed the cause of sustainability as a means for better government. Under his leadership, the county created a local food council, a sustainable local economy council and established sustainable policies within county government. Day also questioned the use of economic incentives to attract industry to the county. He favored small-market principles to help stimulate the local economy. Day questioned the county’s participation with the city of Kannapolis in issuing self-financing bonds for the N.C. Research Campus. He also questioned the N.C. Commerce Department on the use of its jet to meet with local officials about attracting Celgard to Concord. Read more at the Independent Tribune.

Berkeley, California (population 112,580): City Manager Phil Kamlarz will retire at the end of November after 36 years as a City of Berkeley employee. He has been City Manager for 8 years, succeeding Weldon Rucker, under whom he served as Deputy City Manager. It has been widely rumored that the baton will again be passed to a City Hall insider, in this case to Deputy City Manager Christine Daniel. The Berkeley City Council, however, could also decide to open the position for applications and to conduct a search for competitive candidates. Daniel’s 2010 gross salary in her current job was listed in the Mercury News database of public employee salaries as $195,111. If appointed, she would be the first woman to serve as Berkeley’s City Manager.

According to Contra Costa Times columnist Dan Borenstein, by the end of 2011 Kamlarz would have been making about $260,000—but because of the way employee compensation has been structured by the Berkeley city administration, when he retires he will take home a pension of $280,000 a year, or roughly 108 percent of his salary. He started working for the city as an associate accountant in the library department at a salary of $12,720 a year, Borenstein reported. Read more at the Berkeley Daily Planet.

Chisago County, Minnesota (population 53,887): Chisago County has officially hired Bruce Messelt as county administrator. The County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an employment contract during its Sept. 21 meeting, completing a hiring process begun in July when Messelt was selected as the top candidate out of a field of 77 applicants. Messelt has over 20 years of public and non-profit management experience, including work with the U.S. Department of Defense, the city of Tucson, Arizona, and the cities of Moorhead and Lake Elmo, Minnesota. His work has included significant coordination and collaboration with other cities and counties, the State of Minnesota, and area businesses and organizations. Messelt has worked on local government issues identified by the Chisago County Board as important to community, including economic development, public safety, transportation and infrastructure, public health, and cost-efficient, results-driven government. He has also served on various boards and committees within the International/Minnesota City/County Managers Association, the League of Minnesota Cities and the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. Messelt, a native Minnesotan and graduate of Concordia College and the University of Minnesota, will start work on Nov. 1 at a salary of $99,070. During the interim between administrators, the duties of the position were performed by Kristine Nelson Fuge, who will return to her previous position as assistant county attorney. Read more at the East Central Minnesota Post Review.

Forest Lake, Minnesota (population 18,375): The Forest Lake City Council members were unanimous to hire Aaron Parrish to fill the city’s top executive post at Monday’s council meeting. His first day on the job will be Nov. 14. Parrish was waiting until the city council took action Sept. 26 to formally submit a letter of resignation to the city of Crookston. He will provide some feedback and guidance in Crookston’s search to hire a new administrator. Dan Coughlin, who was hired Jan. 1, 2011, accepted a settlement agreement and vacated the city administrator position in late June. His predecessor, Chip Robinson, retired last summer after a 33-year tenure in Forest Lake. In May of 2010, Maplewood-based Brimeyer Fursman was awarded a contract in the amount of $15,000 to find a replacement.

Parrish received a MA in urban and regional studies from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2000. Between 1999-2001, Parrish was Mounds View’s economic development coordinator. He then went on to become the director of community development at the city of Arden Hills from 2001-2004. Parrish, 35, has been the city administrator in Crookston for nearly eight years. The council weighed in on the employment agreement with Parrish, with member Michael Freer saying he took issue with the severance package. Richard Fursman, president of the search firm, said the industry standard is six months and is what Parrish agreed to; the city council proposed three months. Parrish’s starting salary is $107,263. Included in the contract are paid dues and subscriptions, and monthly allowances; $350 for a vehicle (or he may choose in lieu of to be reimbursed for business travel at the rate established by the IRS) and $50 for cell phone costs. Parrish will be reimbursed up to $3,000 for moving expenses, which Councilwoman Susan Young said would easily total twice as much. Upon commencing employment, he will be credited with 40 hours of banked vacation. Read more at the Forest Lake Times.

La Fayette, Georgia (population 6,944): At a Monday night meeting, LaFayette Mayor Neal Florence announced that City Manager Johnnie Arnold has resigned. Florence says he received Johnnie Arnold’s resignation letter Monday. In it, Arnold gives no reason for leaving five months earlier than he planned. Florence says Arnold will use vacation days and won’t return to work before his last day October 10. Florence announced Arnold’s replacement will be Franklin Etheridge of Pembroke, Georgia. The city council is expected to approve Etheridge’s position on or before Arnold’s last day. Read more at News Channel 9.

Breckenridge, Texas (population 5,780): Breckenridge City Commissioners voted to terminate the contract of city manager Brad Newton during a special-called meeting Wednesday. Mayor Jimmy McKay and commissioners Sherry Strickland, Kody Knight and Graham Reaugh voted to terminate Newton’s contract and remove him from the position of City Manager ‘without cause,” as provided in the contract, because the group had come to the conclusion that it was not a good fit for Breckenridge, according to a news release.

In October 2010, commissioners unanimously voted to hire SGR Executive Search to conduct the process of finding a candidate for the position. Newton was one of eight finalists named for the position. Newton started in his position March 14 after commissioners passed a resolution to officially hire him to replace Gary Ernest, who retired from the position Dec. 31, 2010. Newton was hired with an annual salary of $82,000 per year with benefits, which included a city vehicle with limited use, a cell phone and service and reimbursement for professional dues and travel. During his six month employment with the city of Breckenridge, Newton did not receive any written reprimands or any “write ups.” A severance was involved in the termination of Newton’s contract but terms were not released. Read more at the Breckenridge American.