Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
Larry Patterson is excited to transition from being the director of the San Mateo Public Works Department to serving as the new interim city manager.
The city of San Mateo is in good hands with its new interim city manager who is as qualified as they come. Larry Patterson has been involved with city government for more than 20 years and took over when Susan Loftus retired. He has a master’s degree in engineering and consulted with the city over transportation and traffic issues before serving as the director of the Public Works Department for 13 years.
When he first came to work for the city, he was asked what his long-term goal was, he responded he wanted to become city manager one day, Patterson said. Now that he’s arrived at his coveted position, he’s going to work hard to keep it. After he completes his six-month contract, he plans on applying for the permanent position, Patterson said.
“The worst thing that could happen is I go back to a job I really like,” Patterson said.
It’s been a fairly easy transition. He’s already familiar with the people, the culture and primary city objectives, Patterson said. Although his new office is just a short walk across City Hall, his role as city manager is somewhat different. His day-to-day work in the Public Works Department focused on urgent matters with pressing schedules such as building and construction approvals, Patterson said.
Being the city manager involves more oversight and facilitation between city departments and the council, Patterson said. His role is to translate the City Council’s direction into policy action, Patterson said.
“It’s less filled with urgency and much more filed with strategy. It’s quite a different mindset,” Patterson said.
Patterson entered into the position while the city is transitioning and reorganizing some of its staff. Three members of the Community Development Department, including director Lisa Grote, recently resigned, Joe Goethals was elected onto the council and Ray Towne is serving as the interim Public Works director in Patterson’s absence.
The city hired the independent Zucker Systems Consulting firm to help make organizational and staffing decisions for next year, including reviewing other candidates for the full-time city manager position, Patterson said. With experience in operations and oversight, he hopes to continue in helping create more efficient city policies.
Until then, Patterson said he will continue to work on solidifying some of his initiatives before his assignment runs up.
One of his first priorities is to address transportation opportunities with which the city has been presented. San Mateo was awarded $3.7 million by the county’s Transportation Authority for preliminary work on the 25th Avenue grade separation project. The goal is to create more of a differential in the height of the tracks and the streets, Patterson said. Eventually the city will connect the streets between 28th and 31st avenues to Delaware Street, Patterson said. This is a significant step forward within the city’s Rail Corridor Plan and a key component to the Bay Meadows development, Patterson said.
The city’s economic improvement plan for downtown and North B Street, including sidewalk improvements and encouraging local businesses to work together to stimulate finances, will help with the city’s budgeting goals, Patterson said.
The long-standing budget reduction process may be turning around as the economy picks back up. If the city develops a sound city budget with potential reserves, he hopes to follow through on its promise to eliminate the city’s Measure L quarter cent sales tax increase by 2019, Patterson said.
For right now, he’s happy to be serving as the city manager and he looks forward to talking to the council in February about ways to stabilize the budget, Patterson said.
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