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Former City Manager Kurtz In Line to Become Interim City Manager

Published on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 | 11:17 am
Cynthia Kurtz. Photo credit MWD

Former City Manager Cynthia Kurtz could be coming back to City Hall to serve as Interim City Manager while the city searches for a replacement for Steve Mermell.

“Pasadena has never been far from my mind and my heart, and I am humbled and honored to be asked to step in and serve the City of Pasadena,” said Kurtz, who is a Pasadena resident. “I know Steve Mermell well and he has done an incredible job in putting Pasadena on a strong trajectory while dealing with significant challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to re-engaging with the tremendously talented and dedicated civil servants in our local government and doing my small part to keep Pasadena moving forward.”

Kurtz was named city manager in 1997 and had been with the city for 20 years when left her position. 

Kurtz was the city’s only female City Manager and served at a point when women held some of the highest positions in the city.

Ann Erdman served as the public information officer, Jane Rodriguez was the city clerk along with City Attorney/ Prosecutor Michele Beal Bagneris, who remains in her position. 

“We are absolutely thrilled that Cynthia has agreed to step back into her former role during such a critical time for our city,” said Mayor Victor Gordo. “Her familiarity with Pasadena—both our opportunities and challenges—will allow her to have an immediate impact on our government and our residents, and her work with the greater San Gabriel Valley will be an asset. I can think of no one better to fill this interim role and I am confident that she and outgoing City Manager Steve Mermell will work closely  to ensure a seamless transition.”

Rumors of a Kurtz return to City Hall began almost immediately after Mermell announced he was leaving. Kurtz did not return a call to Pasadena Now two weeks ago. 

Reporters at Pasadena Now once again began inquiring about her status with the city on Tuesday morning after Kurtz’s picture was removed from the National Core website. 

National Core is currently in the early development stage on a project on Ramona Street near City Hall and Kurtz remaining with the developer would constitute a conflict of interest. 

Kurtz’s proposed contract will be on the agenda for the October 25th City Council meeting. Beginning in November 2021, Kurtz will work with Mermell to ensure a smooth transition, prior to assuming the Interim City Manager role on December 3rd after Mermell’s retirement.

The interim City Manager position has been discussed in several closed session meetings, but no vote was taken on appointing Kurtz. A vote could have required the city staff to report out of closed session. Instead, staff was given instruction regarding the position. Gordo promised that the appointment process would be transparent.

Since completing her tenure in Pasadena, Kurtz has worked as the Interim City Manager in both Covina and Santa Ana, as well as the Chief Operating Officer of River LA. She also served as the President of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. She currently is the Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Water District.

Kurtz received her undergraduate degree in Community Development and Housing from Pennsylvania State University. She also holds a Master of Arts in Transportation and Urban Development from the University of Iowa. 

Mermell announced his retirement during closed session last month. 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. 

“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 upcoming weeks, assisted by Kurtz and City staff.

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.

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2 thoughts on “Former City Manager Kurtz In Line to Become Interim City Manager

  • if she thinks that mermell has done “an incredible job” then she is not fit to serve as interim. he was taking this city in a very negative direction.

  • Ms. Kurtz will have her hads full. She was our last relatively competent manager. But, after nealy 20 years of failed mismanagement, and failed political leadership, which refused to hold anyone accountable for the years of repeated incompetence, fraud, waste, and a culture of political boot licking over professionalism, that has caused many of our best qualified personnel to leave over the last two decades, she’ll have a lot of mess to clean up.