Anaheim Insider here.
For those interested in any of several top posts at Anaheim City Hall, a little wariness would be understandable.
In the past five years Anaheim has had three city managers, the last of whom resigned in July at the council’s urging after less than two years on the job.
Now the City Council is looking to fill those positions, and some wonder whether the recent turnover could be seen by potential applicants as a liability.
Unmentioned: Anaheim also has an Acting City Clerk and an Acting Human Resources Director.
Councilman Jose F. Moreno downplayed the situation:
“There’s a narrative that could be presented that there’s a lot of instability, people are leaving, they don’t want to be here,” Councilman Jose Moreno said, though he added the large pool of people who applied for the city attorney job contradicts that.
The instability isn’t a “narrative;” it’s a reality. Anaheim used to develop its future leadership internally. Staff moved up through the ranks and acquired greater operational experience and knowledge, in preparation for stepping into vacancies at the top of the City Hall pyramid.
Now, they’re leaving for other cities.
The article notes the declining professional longevity of Anaheim city managers:
Some of Anaheim’s city managers have served for years, and others’ tenure was a matter of months. Here are the city executives of the last three decades.
Jim Ruth: April 1988 to December 2001
David Morgan: December 2001 to June 2009
Tom Wood: July 2009 to June 2012
Bob Wingenroth: June 2012 to June 2013
Marcie Edwards: July 2013 to March 2014
Paul Emery: July 2015 to July 2017
What this list doesn’t explain is that, as I mentioned, Anaheim developed talent for internal succession. For example, Jim Ruth’s successor as city manager, Dave Morgan, was a career Anaheim city employee who was assistant city manager under Ruth. Morgan’s successor, Tom Wood, had been assistant city manager under both Morgan and Ruth.
That went for senior staff positions. For example, Joel Fick wokred his way up through the city’s Planning Department, running that department for years before being named Deputy City Manager in 2003, the position from which he retired in 2009.
Nowadays, instead of sticking around and moving up, talented and experienced staff are moving out. Deputy Planning Director Jonathan Borrego left this year to become planning director for Oceanside. No knock on that seaside community, but the $2 billion Disneyland Resort expansion, several luxury hotels projects in the Resort, West Anaheim development initiatives and other projects are much more professionally challenging than anything Oceanside has going.
Yet the environment in City Hall has become so toxic that running the planning department in a sleepy Marine town is more attractive.
The Dave Morgans, Tom Woods and Joel Ficks used to represent the norm in Anaheim City Hall. Assistant City Manager Kristine Ridge is from that mold, and she’s jumping ship to be Laguna Niguel’s city manager. You don’t spend 25 years working your way to the number-two spot and leave when the city is hunting for a city manager unless you knew the councilmember powers-that-be would block you.
Pot, Meet Kettle
In the hypocrisy department, UNITE-HERE Local 11’s Martin Lopez scores a special mention for complaining to the OC Register about long, contentious council meetings:
“They argue about things for hours” at meetings, said Martin Lopez, secretary of Unite Here Local 11, which represents hotel workers. “That needs to change. We cannot continue operating like that.”
Lopez was one of the ringleaders who were so loud and thoroughly disruptive when they didn’t get their way at December 2015, that the meeting had to be shut down. He and his boss Ada Briceno and the rest of their goon squad shut down the meeting intentionally, and bragged they would do it again if their demands were not met.
But that was OK.
This is where OC Register reporting on Anaheim could benefit if its writers had some institutional memory going back even a few years.