Would you apply for a job knowing that less than a month after you start, you might have a whole new set of bosses?
We wouldn’t – and we suspect that the best candidates for Sacramento’s next city manager wouldn’t either.
Yet that’s the gamble that Mayor Kevin Johnson and a majority of the City Council are taking by insisting that they do the hiring.
While the specific timetable isn’t clear, the goal is to have a successor in place when John Shirey, city manager since 2011, steps aside on Nov. 18. The new mayor and council take office in early December (the precise date hasn’t been set).
It’s conceivable that the city’s leaders will all be the same faces, but there’s no guarantee. With Johnson not seeking re-election and four of eight City Council seats up for grabs, it’s also possible that a majority would be new – and would not have voted to hire the new city manager.
With all that uncertainty, the quality of applicants would surely not be as strong. And it would be costly – and embarrassing – to have to redo the search.
It makes much more sense to have the new mayor and council do the hiring as their first order of business and have a new manager in place early next year.
Shirey, who announced his departure on Tuesday, told a Bee editorial board member that he’s willing to stay longer if the council asks. If the council doesn’t want to do that, there are able officials who can fill in as interim manager.
Politics are involved here, of course. Councilman Steve Hansen, who is calling for the next council to pick the city manager, is supporting former Senate leader Darrell Steinberg for mayor. If Steinberg wins, he would only get a say on the new manager if the decision is put off until at least December. Councilwoman Angelique Ashby is also running for mayor, but she would get to vote on the next city manager either way because even if she loses, her council term goes until 2018.
A majority of current council members may not want to relinquish hiring power, but their duty is to city residents. The argument for moving faster is to make sure City Hall’s momentum isn’t slowed by a leadership vacuum.
But it’s much more important to have a strong city manager who has the full support of his bosses, especially the mayor.