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City Manager Selection Process Up For Discussion in Closed Session

Published on Monday, September 27, 2021 | 5:00 am

The Pasadena City Council on Monday will meet in closed session to initiate a search process to replace City Manager Steve Mermell, who last week announced his plans to retire.

The council will “begin discussions to define the inclusive process of a national search,” Mayor Victor Gordo said in a column appearing Friday in Pasadena Now.

“We will share those details with you when they have been confirmed. In the meantime,” Gordo wrote, “Steve will continue in his role until his retirement date of December 2, and the Council and I are confident that he — along with our incredible City employees and department heads — will continue to serve the City with distinction.”

Mermell announced his retirement during closed session last Monday. At the conclusion of the meeting, he sent a letter to city employees. 

“Over the years I have had the pleasure of getting to know a lot of city employees and I count many of you as friends and all of you as colleagues,” Mermell wrote. “Day in and day out you provide exceptional service to our community and it shows. It will always be a great source of pride for me to have served as your City Manager.”

Mermell said he will assist in the transition with a new city manager. 

Pasadena has a council-city manager type of government, which calls for the elected City Council to serve as the city’s primary legislative body and to appoint a city manager to oversee day-to-day municipal operations, draft a budget, implement and enforce the council’s policy and legislative initiatives, and oversee 14 of the 16 city departments. 

The council can only hire or fire the city manager, the city attorney/prosecutor and the city clerk.

With the departure of former City Manager Micheal Beck in 2016, the city hired an executive search firm to find qualified candidates for the permanent position through a nationwide search. But it appeared to be a done deal as several council members threw their support behind Mermell, who was an assistant city manager at that time.

If the city follows the same process it followed the last time they hired someone from outside the organization in 2008, an ad hoc committee could be empaneled to work on the replacement 

In that search, which ended with Beck being hired, former Mayor Bill Bogaard tasked three council members — Jacque Robinson, Sid Tyler and Margaret McAustin — with making site visits with the top candidates for the job. 

The city’s two elected mayors in modern times — Bogaard and Terry Tornek — have led the city through a process to choose a new city manager.

The new city manager will also choose a new police chief. Chief John Perez has announced his plans to retire early next year.

Ironically, the last two city managers — Mermell and Beck — selected new police chiefs. Mermell promoted Perez and Beck hired former Chief Phillip Sanchez.

The new city manager will have to hit the ground running. 

The city is dealing with infrastructure issues at several locations, an affordable housing shortage, reclamation of the 710 Freeway stub near Old Pasadena, the proposed placement of suicide barriers on the Colorado Street Bridge, and ensuring that the city has access to clean and affordable drinking water.

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