Pasadena City Councilmembers praised former City Manager Cynthia Kurtz ahead of a meeting on Monday in which a finalized contract will make her the interim City Manager when current City Manager Steve Mermell leaves Pasadena in December.
“Leadership transitions are never easy, especially given short notice,” said Vice Mayor Andy Wilson. “We are extremely fortunate to have someone of Cynthia‘s experience and integrity to be willing to jump in to assist during this critical period. She has the knowledge, relationships and respect of the community to hit the ground running. We are grateful for her willingness to serve the fine city of Pasadena.”
Kurtz served as city manager for 10 years and today the only current elected officials that served on the council during her tenure are Mayor Victor Gordo, who formerly represented District 5 on the council before being elected mayor in November, and District 6 Councilman Steve Madison.
“I had the pleasure of working with and for Cynthia J. Kurtz several decades ago when she was director of public works for the city of Pasadena and I was manager of transportation services,” said Councilmember John Kennedy.
Kennedy called Kurtz an excellent choice for the interim city manager position.
“I cannot think of anyone in Pasadena more capable and qualified to serve in the referenced capacity. She is an ’A’ personality, is always over-prepared, creative, highly competent, loves Pasadena and is a no-nonsense executive,” Kennedy said.
“She has poured her life into the careers of a number of outstanding African and Latino American managers and executives as well as in the workforce in our local city government as a whole.”
Kurtz began her career in Pasadena in 1987 as the capital projects administrator and in 1990 became the director of Public Works and Transportation. Kurtz served as city manager from 1997 to 2008, taking over for former City Manager Phil Hawkey. She was replaced by former Police Chief Bernard Melekian.
“I know Cynthia Kurtz very well from the time she was the director of Public Works,” said former Mayor and Councilman Bill Paparian. “She is without any doubt the best City Manager that Pasadena has ever had.”
Kurtz led the city through the nearly $190 million City Hall retrofit project, deregulation of the state’s power industry, and attempts to bring an NFL team to the Rose Bowl, an idea that still does not go over well with the residents of the upscale neighborhoods near the iconic stadium.
After announcing plans to leave City Hall in 2008, Kurtz said one of the things the city needed to focus on was stopping youth violence, an issue that continues to plague the city as Kurtz prepares to retake the helm of city government.
Kurtz has also recommended that when the time comes to choose her successor that she or he “work really hard with the City Council to understand what their personal interests are in their districts and even more so, understand the vision of the entire group and work really hard to help them achieve it.”
Mermell, who worked under Kurttz’s leadership over the past three decades, announced his retirement during a closed session of the council last month. At the conclusion of the meeting, he sent a letter to city employees, letting them know about his intentions to leave City Hall.
Mermell said he will assist in the transition with a new city manager.
“It was a pleasure to work with Cynthia when she served as city manager and she is the perfect person to step into this role,” said Mermell. “As I pledged when I announced my retirement, I will do everything in my power to ensure a smooth transition and will continue to serve the residents of Pasadena until my very last day on the job.”
Mayor Gordo and the City Council will begin a national search for a permanent city manager in the weeks ahead, assisted by Kurtz and city staff.
“I congratulate City Manager Steve Mermell for his extraordinary career with the city and his commitment to helping Cynthia on her new journey until his retirement” in December, Kennedy said.
“Steve has served the city of Pasadena with devotion, excellence and aplomb. My prayer is that he enjoys his well-deserved retirement,” he said.
“Ms. Kurtz has much work to do, steadying the ship of Pasadena local government until a permanent city manager is selected. I wish her the greatest success.”