Hiring process for a new Public Works Director addressed by City Council
Published:  December 30, 2016

Hiring a new Public Works Director was addressed by the City Council at the December 19 meeting where they decided to wait until a new City Manager takes over the corner office. 

Needed is a replacement for Public Works Director Brian Yanez, who recently left the city to become Santa Barbara County’s deputy director of parks.

According to a report by City Attorney John Cotti, the cost of an external recruitment for a Public Works Director is not budgeted would likely be funded from the administration and the public works budgets. 

The city has received a proposal for recruitment services in the amount of $16,500 — plus expenses — from Bob Murray & Associates, the same firm hired to find a new City Manager to replace Jaime Fontes. 

John Ilasin, the city’s Capital Projects Engineer, has been appointed Interim Public Works Director. 

Cotti told the council they had some decision-making to do: the city needs to conduct a recruitment for a full-time replacement and has several options. 

“The hiring of a public works director is typically a duty that falls to the city manager,” but with Fontes’ leaving in the coming months the council “may wish to leave that decision to the next city manager.”

Given the importance of the position, Cotti noted, the council could also begin the search by creating a subcommittee to begin the recruitment process. 

Such a subcommittee could work with recruiters or city staff to place ads, sort resumes, schedule interviews and check references. Once the new city manager was on board he or she could make the decision from the pool of applicants developed by the subcommittee. 

“This would save considerable time in the final selection,” said Cotti. 

“I think it is important for the next city manager to select the next public works director,” said Vice Mayor Ginger Gherardi, as “It’s a key position…John Ilasin is doing an excellent job filling in,” but the recruitment process would take several months.

She noted the new public works director would be “part of that person’s team and we should hang on a couple of months,” as the new city manager would “Take a good hard look at city staff and where to make changes.”

“I could not respectfully not agree with you more,” said Councilman Martin Hernandez. 

It is “super critical” not to continue, “to settle for mediocrity” and not look to the future, as “That’s what we would continue to get, mediocrity.” 

Hernandez suggested the council could create a shortlist of candidates for the new city manager to review, but the council should “Go as professional and broad as we can,” for the search. 

Councilman John Procter agreed with Hernandez noting, “We can have all the preliminary work done so when the new city manager arrives he can hit the ground running,” although he noted the recruiter contract did not have to be let that evening.

Mayor Jenny Crosswhite said although the recruitments could run concurrently her concern was that the new city manager might have certain qualifications they would require in a new public works director that would be left out of the initial recruitment process. 

When it came to the proposed contract, Crosswhite asked Cotti, “This is not much of a discount, is it?”

“No,” he replied.

“So,” said Crosswhite, “we’re not missing out on a great rate,” and can delay a decision. 

Hernandez said he is concerned about the workload in public works and the rising number of projects that need attention.

Gherardi noted the city has “Someone on contract with a rather large company” and, if necessary, for the time being various professional duties could be added to the contract. 

City Manager Jaime Fontes agreed, noting the engineering consultant’s company has “A stable of engineering racehorses on track.”

The council agreed to continue the item and Cotti said he would have the recruitment firm “Sharpen their pencils,” and rethink the proposed bid.

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