Serenaded by young musicians from the host Pasadena Conservatory of Music, nearly a hundred District 2 residents heard updates from Pasadena’s leadership Thursday evening as recent City Manager Miguel Márquez, new Police Chief Eugene Harris and new General Manager of Pasadena Water and Power Sidney Jackson, introduced themselves at Councilmember Felicia William’s Town Hall presentation Thursday evening.
Of the three, Márquez has been employed by Pasadena the longest, assuming the City Manager’s chair last August following the retirement of Steve Mermell. The hirings of Harris and Jackson were announced in November of 2022.
Harris, a former Marine, served as the Chief of Police in Monterey Park before assuming that position in San Gabriel and then Pasadena.
Jackson served as the Chief Operations Officer and Deputy General Manager at Austin Energy in Texas and served as the Chief Operations Officer at Rochester Public Utility.
Márquez, who was raised in Southern California, pointed out that despite earning degrees from UC Berkeley, Stanford University and Harvard, his most important learning may have come from the early childhood Head Start program, which he attended as a young pre-schooler.
“Basically, it was Head Start to Harvard for me,” he joked. Márquez is originally from Zacatecas, Mexico, where he said he learned from his parents “what it means to work hard.”
Márquez also served as an associate justice for the California Court of Appeals in Northern California as well as as the County Counsel for the County of Santa Clara, before being hired by Pasadena.
“That was the best public service job in Northern California,” Márquez told the audience, “and I told myself that if I was going to move to be closer to family in Southern California, I wanted the best public service job in Southern California, and now I have it.”
Márquez began with praise for the pay raise and new MOU agreement made with the Pasadena Police Officers Association (PPOA) in October that will provide a pay increase for the City’s police officers.
He discussed his five recent promotions of longtime city staffers—Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services Brenda Harvey-Williams and Director of Planning & Community Development David Reyes to Assistant City Managers, effective Monday, March 13, as well as the appointments of Deputy Director of Planning & Community Development Jennifer Paige and Human Resources Manager Tiffany Jacobs-Quinn to Directors of their departments.
Márquez also pointed out the promotion of Human Resources Manager Alex Souto to the position of Deputy City Manager.
The City Manager said that the City had recently agreed to commit to a resolution to create 100% carbon-free electricity in Pasadena by 2030.
Márquez told the packed concert hall that the City is moving forward with implementing Measure H, the rent control measure which was approved by the voters in 2022, despite an apartment owners group having filed a lawsuit against it after failing to stop it by requesting but not getting a restraining order last winter.
Márquez also detailed how Federal COVID funds were spent during the pandemic, pointing out that Pasadena had achieved one of the highest vaccination rates of any city in California, with the help of the Federal monies.
New Pasadena Police Chief Eugene Harris enlivened his presentation with a slap to the head—his own, in a tale describing how his mother had struck him by surprise one afternoon in a shopping mall.
As he questioned her in shock, she simply responded, “That’s to let you know I still can.”
His response? An adamant, “Yes, ma’am.”
Harris, a former US Marine and former Chief of Police for San Gabriel, also reminded the audience of his goal to “bring community back,” to the Pasadena Police Department, implementing mandatory “block walks” by every officer on every shift, as well as a “better relationship with schools.”
“We can bring everything and anything we need to defuse a situation at a school campus, but the one thing we can’t just bring along is a better relationship with our schools.”
New PWP head Jackson also praised the work of the city in reducing carbon electricity and in particular, pointed to the increasing number of solar panels throughout the city. He said that solar panels can reduce costs of energy,and they are ultimately tied to the city’s own power grid, so that homeowners can resell unused electricity to the City.