In the search for a new city manager, Goleta residents are looking for a neighbor.
More than any other attribute mentioned at a City Council workshop on Tuesday, residents said they want the next leader to live within the city he or she is managing. Former city manager Dan Singer lived in Ojai throughout his eight-year tenure with Goleta, before leaving for a job in San Diego County.
Jean Blois, a member of Goleta’s first-ever City Council, said she did the searches for the first and second city managers.
When her former council hired Singer, Goleta was “a toddler of a city” and they didn’t think they could ask him to move here, she said. Now, she said, it’s important for the city’s top staff member to live locally.
It’s illegal to make residency a condition of employment, but the city can pursue a variety of incentives, recruiter Bob Murray said. His firm is handling the search process for Singer’s replacement. The process typically takes about five months, but the City Council may want to work around November’s election, he said.
“The qualified candidates are more inclined to want to know who their bosses are going to be,” he said.
A council majority is on the ballot this year — Mayor Michael Bennett, Councilman Roger Aceves and Councilwoman Paula Perotte’s seats. The council will also have to decide what salary to offer the next city manager; Singer made $202,284 when he left.
At Tuesday night’s workshop, residents asked for a city manager with a strong financial background and commitment to transparency and community engagement.
Of all Goleta’s unique characteristics, one of the most important is the length and breadth of citizen involvement, Councilman Ed Easton said. That trait launched the city in the first place and has never left, he said.
The next manager needs to be a people-person, Perotte said. He or she will have to deal with five bosses, the staff, community members and developers, she said. The city manager also oversees hires for the entire staff, except the city attorney position.
Murray asked Bennett if the city has a public pool — a question out of nowhere. Bennett mentioned the Dos Pueblos High School pool, which the city helped fund.
That’s important because clearly, Murray said, the new candidate will need to walk on water.
Goleta wants more citizen input on the new city manager and has a survey on its website available until the end of Friday.
The City Council also gave Easton a heartfelt sendoff Tuesday night. He is resigning his post Wednesday since his move to a home outside city limits is official, which means he can’t serve on the council.
Easton has served on the city’s Old Town Project Advisory Committee, Design Review Board and Planning Commission in addition to his 5½ years on the council. As Bennett pointed out, Easton is the only one in the city’s history to serve on all three major boards.
The other council members wished him the best and told him to stay involved with the city, even after the move.
“You can take the man out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the man,” Perotte said, adding that Easton’s inspiration and vision made the city a better place.
The city soon will open an application period for a replacement. The City Council will interview and appoint someone to fill the vacancy through the end of 2016, the rest of Easton’s term.