With San Mateo City Manager Susan Loftus recently announcing her retirement, the City Council will decide tonight how it wants to go about recruiting a new boss to handle the city’s $160 million annual budget and more than 500 employees.
Loftus departs her job Nov. 1 and the council will likely have to appoint an interim city manager to handle her duties while the city embarks on a hunt to fill her shoes.
The council will decide whether it should hire a consultant to find her replacement or whether the human resources department should handle the job.
Staff is recommending the council hire an outside consultant as it did more than five years ago after Arne Croce announced his retirement from the city manager’s position.
Loftus was working under Croce when he retired and the council hired her to the city’s top post after a recruitment consultant narrowed down a list of finalists to just a few.
Having an outside consultant pick Loftus as a finalist offered greater credibility to the decision to hire her, Councilman Jack Matthews told the Daily Journal.
“We deemed her the best qualified and the process legitimized the decision,” Matthews said.
Although Matthews had hoped to end his time on the council with Loftus as the city’s boss, he said her retirement is well deserved.
Loftus has worked for the city for more than 25 years.
“I’m disappointed she’s not staying longer, but she’s put in her time,” he said.
According to a staff report, hiring a consultant will be beneficial because it would be familiar with the applicant pool and will likely be aware of viable candidates who would be interested in applying for the job.
Executive recruitment consulting firms keep databases of potential applicants and have the skill and expertise to perform the search, according to the staff report the council will hear Monday.
The consultant would:
• Develop the city manager position profile;
• Prepare the recruitment brochure, marketing materials and advertising plan;
• Conduct candidate outreach;
• Assess and screen the candidates;
• Recommend final candidates;
• Conduct interviews; and
• Do a background check on the finalist and negotiate terms of employment.
The process will take up to six months, according to the staff report.
Deputy Mayor Robert Ross said the search may include candidates from across the nation but that an administrator already working in California might be the best way to go.
“It would give the city manager an advantage to know state law,” he said.
The city manager’s job also includes the hiring of top administrators and department heads.
With Community Development Department Director Lisa Grote leaving the city in a few weeks, Loftus could technically hire Grote’s replacement before she leaves in November.
Ross, however, thinks the city’s next city manager might be the best choice to hire the new CDD director.
“It might be better to weather the storm and bring in a brand-new team,” Ross said.
The council meets in a special study session 5:30 p.m. tonight, City Hall, 330 W. 20th Ave., San Mateo.
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