Sacramento City Manager John Shirey announced Tuesday he will leave City Hall when his contract ends Nov. 18.
Backed by Mayor Kevin Johnson and council members at a Tuesday news conference, Shirey said he’s announcing his departure now so the City Council will have plenty of time to recruit and thoroughly vet his replacement.
“This says more about John that he wanted to leave us in a really good position and give us adequate time to find a suitable replacement, assuming there’s one out there,” Johnson said. “To have John as a resource for us when we’re looking for the next city manager – it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Johnson said Shirey’s legacy will be Golden 1 Center and the revitalization of Sacramento’s downtown. Shirey, 66, pointed to accomplishments like the upgrade of the Sacramento River Water Treatment Plant and the end of the building moratorium in Natomas.
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The next city manager will serve under a new mayor, whom voters will choose in the June primary or a November runoff, depending on whether the June winner captures a majority of votes. But the current City Council, including Johnson, will select Shirey’s replacement before the next mayor takes office.
Vice Mayor Rick Jennings said he thinks the upcoming election will have little impact on the recruitment process for Shirey’s successor, aside from mayoral candidate Angelique Ashby’s involvement as part of the council.
“She’ll be very vested in that,” Jennings said, “The other candidates that are not a part of the City Council, I’m sure they’ll keep a close eye on it and they’ll want to know that we’re going to do the best job we can to bring in an incredible candidate.”
Ashby said in a statement that Shirey’s departure gives the council the chance to conduct a “thorough nationwide search and evaluation process.”
But Councilman Steve Hansen said he wants Shirey to delay his departure until next year, through the process of adopting a budget in June 2017. Hansen, who has endorsed Darrell Steinberg for mayor, said he also thought it would be prudent to delay choosing Shirey’s successor until the next mayor takes office.
“My hope is that he would stay beyond the transition to a new mayor to continue our stability,” Hansen said. “I’m afraid the selection process (for a new city manager) will be clouded by the uncertainty of who will be the next mayor.”
As city manager, Shirey oversees city operations, including the budget and 4,300 employees. He was initially appointed in 2011 and received two contract extensions from the City Council. Under his last extension, Shirey’s total base salary rose to $268,423.
Shirey said the mayoral election and recent clashes between homeless protesters and the city have nothing to do with his decision to leave.
Councilman Jay Schenirer said he thinks Shirey’s greatest accomplishment is getting the city on a solid financial footing. In 2014, Shirey produced a city budget with a surplus for the first time in seven years.
Schenirer said Shirey is the latest in a group of local leaders leaving this year, including Sacramento County Executive Brad Hudson, Sacramento Area Council of Governments Chief Executive Mike McKeever, Sacramento Regional Transit District General Manager Mike Wiley and Sacramento Transportation Authority Executive Director Brian Williams.
“I actually look at this as an opportunity for all of us and all of the agencies, and I hope we have some discussions ... about how do we think more regionally with this new group of people,” he said.
Shirey said there are plenty of things on his plate to accomplish before he leaves his post. He wants to begin renovating the Community Center Theater and upgrade the convention center and stormwater and sewer infrastructure.
“I don’t intend to kick back, do nothing for the next 10 months,” Shirey said. “We still have a budget to do.”
Editor’s note (Jan. 20): This story has been updated to correct the name of the water project noted by John Shirey.
Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison