The San Mateo City Council will hire an outside consultant to jump-start the search for a new city manager to succeed Susan Loftus, who recently announced that she'll be retiring this November.
Council members agreed last week that having a professional hiring firm at the helm of the time-consuming search would be the best course.
“Using an outside consultant is appropriate, so we don't burden our staff,” council member Jack Matthews said.
The search will take approximately six months once the firm is hired. Mayor David Lim said the council is still unsure whether there will be someone to cover the post in the interim period after Loftus has left but before a new city manager is appointed.
When Loftus announced she'd be retiring from the post after five years, she said it was because she'd accomplished most of the financial goals she'd had for the city.
“We eliminated about 100 government positions and accumulated $20 million in reserves,” Loftus said. “Labor restructuring and prudent financial management put us on a better path.”
She also cited capital improvements such as two new fire stations, an upgraded strategy for street improvements, and an increase in civic engagement via non-traditional methods such as social media.
Lim was caught off guard by Loftus' retirement announcement, but he wasn't surprised, because, as he said, she'd been working for the city for 25 years.
“Susan did a wonderful job keeping our ship afloat during the recession,” Lim said. He hopes the new city manager will help move the city forward “into the 21st century.”
“As we come out of the recession, we're looking for someone dynamic in terms of business development,” he said. “People have been keeping all these wonderful ideas bottled up for the last four years, and now we want to move forward.”
Loftus' decision to retire came on the heels of retirement announcements and resignations from three other city officials: Community Development Director Lisa Grote, zoning administrator Stephen Scott, and senior planner Lisa Ring. But Loftus said those announcements had nothing to do with the timing of her own decision.
“My decision was totally related to those areas I'd mentioned: Capital improvements and accomplishing financial prudence.”
The other retiring and resigning city officials were all involved with a 7-Eleven deal gone slightly sour in 2012, though officials all maintain that this had nothing to do with their stepping down. A city attorney initially approved construction of a new 7-Eleven store, but the city then reversed the decision over neighborhood opposition, resulting in a legal battle between the city and the corporation.
Loftus announced her upcoming retirement late in July. She'd been working for the city since 1987, when she was hired as an economic development manager, after which she moved up to deputy city manager, and then city manager in 2008.