It was one of the best retirement parties I have ever attended. No speeches. Just lots of people hugging and saying “haven’t seen you in so long but you look great” as many of the attendees were former city employees and department heads. Most of the current staff was there including a large number of police officers and firemen. Also attending were Rich Napier, former head of the City/County Associations of Government and current head, Sandy Wong; Mike Garvey, former San Carlos city manager; former San Mateo city manager Arne Croce and wife Carole.
Everyone got to spend quality time with Susan Loftus, San Mateo’s retiring city manager, who officially left Nov. 1. There was a long line of well-wishers which stretched the length of the City Hall atrium from the start of the party at 5 p.m. to the conclusion shortly after 7 p.m. It reminded me of a wedding or funeral reception line. Loftus manned the line the whole time without skipping a beat, saying just the right thing to each person who wanted to give her a hug, whisper in her ear or just shake her hand. My guess she was overwhelmed by the number who came from near and far to wish her well.
Some of the well-wishers included former Park and Recreation director, Dick Coleman, and his wife; Jim Hardy, Foster City city manager; John Root and Tish Busselle, Leadership San Mateo; Diane Croce and Colleen Nolan, former city manager aides; Norma Gomez, former city clerk and assistant Pat Winans; former finance directors John de Russy and Hossein Golestan; former community development staff Bob Beyers, Lisa Grote, Laura Sniderman (now Half Moon Bay city manager) and Robert Muehlbauer; Cheryl Angeles, San Mateo Chamber of Commerce; Anne LeClair, Convention and Visitors Bureau head; Cyndy Simms, elementary school superintendent and Lory Lawson, school board member; Ben Toy, Home Association of North Central San Mateo president; former fire chief Dan Belville and former police officer Ed Trucco. Many members of the city’s boards and commissions attended including Joe Goethals (newly elected councilman), Joshua Hugg, Anna Kuhre, Greg St. Clair, Rick Bonilla, Sherrie Taguchie, Dorothy Chow, Bertha Sanchez and Diane Whitaker.
In addition to former city staff, former councilwomen Jan Epstein, Carole Groom (now Supervisor Groom) and yours truly mingled with the group. The only current councilmember attending was Jack Matthews and his wife Patricia. It seemed strange there were no other current councilmembers there. They should have been. The official good-bye to Loftus occurred at a previous council meeting where there were speeches and resolutions galore. But the retirement party showed what was best about the city of San Mateo and why people like to work here. It really was family and for many it was a homecoming. Hopefully that special San Mateo mystique is not in danger of disappearing.
The good news is that the council has found a perfect interim city manager in the experienced and seasoned Public Works Director Larry Patterson. Patterson has held that post since Arch Perry retired more than a decade ago. He is well-liked and has a reputation for getting things done. While the council will probably do a search, it wouldn’t surprise many if Patterson ended up as the city’s new manager. At one time, Patterson was a councilman in Half Moon Bay where he suffered the slings of political arrows. His day job was running a traffic consulting business. His firm was often hired to do traffic studies for San Mateo. That’s how he met then city manager Arne Croce who picked him for Public Works even though Patterson did not have the traditional engineering degrees. It turned out to be a good pick.
Not too many surprises in the election results. As usual, Burlingame has a cliff-hanger with just a few votes separating Ricardo Ortiz and Russ Cohen, the third and fourth contenders for City Council. For San Mateo City Council, it was expected that Joshua Hugg might prevail but Joe Goethals came in third behind the incumbents with Hugg a distant fourth. All in all it was a good year for incumbents. More post mortems in next column.
Sue Lempert is the former mayor of San Mateo. Her column runs every Monday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.