On his last day as Pasadena’s City’s Manager Steve Mermell listed two high points of his career for Pasadena Now.
“Serving as the City Manager for such a talented organization provides a lot to be proud of. Certainly, our response to the COVID pandemic stands out as a high point, but I’d have to say my greatest accomplishment, in my mind, is assembling the finest Executive Leadership Team in the state of California,” Mermell said.
Mermell is resigning after more than 30 years with the city. He was appointed City Manager in 2016. During the pandemic, the city took several steps to take care of local residents including rebates from the city’s utility and established food programs to help seniors and local students, in conjunction with the Pasadena Unified School District.
Under Mermell, city staff also came up with what may be the strongest rent moratoriums in the country.
According to the amended moratorium, local residents will have six months to pay back rent after the local emergency ends.
The City Council named Mermell to the City Manager position after he worked in a number of departments at City Hall for more than 27 years.
He began his career as an administrative analyst at Pasadena Water and Power. In the Finance Department, he served as Purchasing Administrator, Budget Administrator and Deputy Director of Finance before being promoted to Assistant City Manager, then in February, Interim City Manager.
The City Manager oversees 14 of the city’s 16 departments, including the Police and Fire departments. Only the City Manager, City Clerk Mark Jomsky and City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris are hired by and answer to the City Council.
Mermell became interim City Manager after former City Manager Michael Beck left the city to take a job at UCLA in 2016 as the city was still reeling from a $6.4 million embezzlement scandal at the hands of a former management analyst in the city’s Public Works Department.
Beck, who had managed the city through the economic recession of 2008 and 2009, as well as through the windstorm of December 2013 and oversaw the rehabilitation and refurbishing of the Rose Bowl, went before the press to make the announcement public.
He also took steps to recover funds stolen during the embezzlement from the city’s insurance carrier.
Danny Wooten was later convicted to 14 years in prison on 53 felony counts.
Wooten’s co-defendant, Tyrone E. Collins, who owned an electrical contracting company, was convicted of 10 felony counts each of embezzlement by a public or private officer and misappropriation of public funds.
Beck took several steps to leave the city on solid ground, including a transparent investigation into the embezzlement, and worked to create effective strategies and initiate the recapture of the losses from the city’s insurance carrier.
He left nearly two years after the incident was made public.
Mermell also led City Hall through two police scandals, the police beating of Christopher Ballew and the ATF investigation into former Police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian, who illegally sold weapons online.
A handful of critics began calling for Mermell’s firing after the officer-involved shooting of Anthony McClain last year. Last month, the city settled one lawsuit in that case for $7.5 million.
Cynthia Kurtz will become interim City Manager on Friday.
Kurtz previously served as Pasadena’s City Manager for 10 years. 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.
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 who served as Interim City Manager before Beck was chosen.
“Pasadena is a wonderful community and I will forever cherish my experience here,” Mermell said on Thursday.