You’re hired: Howard Chan becomes Sacramento’s city manager after interim role

Interim City Manager Howard Chan, right, appears on the dais with former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Councilwoman Angelique Ashby before the City Council meeting on Dec. 6.
Interim City Manager Howard Chan, right, appears on the dais with former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Councilwoman Angelique Ashby before the City Council meeting on Dec. 6. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Interim Sacramento City Manager Howard Chan on Tuesday was offered a permanent job as the city’s top executive.

Chan’s appointment comes less than three months after he began a temporary contract in November following the retirement of former City Manager John Shirey. Chan oversees the city’s 6,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees and has power over day-to-day decisions. He reports to the City Council.

The council voted in closed session on Tuesday to offer Chan the permanent position and a three-year contract. Salary details were not immediately available, but Chan currently receives a prorated annual salary of $262,627. The contract will go before council members next Tuesday.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said Chan has shown he can work collaboratively with elected officials and is responsive to current city issues such as homelessness and police conduct.

“He is just the right person,” Steinberg said. “He’s a partner and he’s respected, and our chemistry and early work together has been really good and positive.”

Councilman Jeff Harris said the council unanimously supported giving Chan the job because he has “an intensely sharp mind and a great attitude.”

Council members had chosen Chan on an interim basis to give Steinberg time to weigh in on the final decision, but with Steinberg’s support there was no need to delay until Chan’s initial contract expired in June, they said.

“There is no reason to wait and string him along,” said Councilman Steve Hansen. “Why not just put a ring on it?”

Chan, 49, said he was “humbled” by the decision, and that his leadership philosophy has been to be “open and honest.” He is the city’s first Asian-American city manager.

“It’s all about communication, and I feel that we make a good team,” said Chan of his role with the City Council.

Hansen said that in his short tenure, Chan impressed the council by taking quick action on a number of issues.

In recent months, Chan managed the city as it opened multiple “warming centers,” including one in unused city office space near City Hall after two homeless men died on City Hall grounds in a two-week period. That shelter was funded through donations raised by Councilwoman Angelique Ashby.

“Without him cooperating, it would have been really hard,” said Hansen. “But he was not anything but supportive.”

Chan also hired an assistant city manager to oversee emergency services and to provide greater oversight of the police and fire departments, another area of concern for council members.

Chan will oversee the hiring of a new police chief. A national search to fill that position is underway, and Chan recently reported to the City Council on outreach efforts to involve community members in the hiring process.

Born in San Francisco, Chan is the middle son of three boys. His parents emigrated from Hong Kong and China. His mother was a hotel cleaner and his father worked as a bartender in a popular Chinatown watering hole, where Chan worked while still in elementary school.

Chan graduated from California State University, Hayward, and worked in the private sector in the Bay Area before being recruited in 2002 as Sacramento’s parking manager. He was promoted to assistant city manager in 2013. Chan has two teenage children and lives in Natomas.

Last year, the city conducted a nationwide search to replace Shirey and received more than 80 résumés. After interviewing 10 candidates, City Council members ultimately opted to go with Chan.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa