In a surprising announcement, former interim city manager Jack Crist was named as Belmont’s first permanent city manger in three years.

He will officially take the reins of City Hall on Jan. 8 as the city’s first permanent city manager in three years, outgoing mayor Phil Mathewson told a packed council chamber last night.

"Jack is back,” Mathewson said. "He is someone who will be able to jump right back in the saddle.”

Crist, 61, served as interim city manager from May 2005 through March 2006. He spent the summer traveling the country with his wife in their fifth wheel trailer. He was in Texas two weeks when he read a newspaper article about Belmont’s proposal to ban almost all smoking in its city.

He still chose to take the job, he said with a laugh after last night’s announcement.

"My last tour here was the highlight of my career,” he told the council.

By choosing Crist, the city ends a three-year stretch with no permanent city manager. As an interim, Crist was one of four temporary city managers after Jere Kersnar left the city in 2004. Assistant City Manager Dan Rich served as interim before leaving in May 2005 to become the Campbell city manager. The city hired Crist, a former Modesto city manager, to an interim position that same month.

In the last nine years, the city’s longest running city manager was Kersnar with four years then Damon Edwards, who served from February 1994 to February 1997.

Crist received a standing ovation from many city employees at last night’s meeting. Crist was instrumental in the reconstruction of the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department, which is still facing problems after property owners in both Belmont and San Carlos rejected an assessment tax two weeks ago.

Newly elected Mayor Coralin Feierbach sits on the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department Board of Directors with Councilman Dave Warden. She vowed to maintain quality fire services in the city. The board spent the last year hashing out the details for an assessment tax that would save the department from its growing financial problems. Its failure sends officials back to the drawing table. The board meets today to discuss the situation.

Feierbach promises to keep meetings quick and interesting, she said.

The often outspoken councilwoman spearheaded the Measure F campaign to limit development in the Belmont hills. She also introduced the smoking ordinance, which attracted national attention two weeks ago.

Despite the landmark policies Feierbach pushes, she vowed to keep her attention on building a better council.

"I will do an outreach to each council member. I want to make this council be the best it’s been in ... I don’t know how many years,” Feierbach said.

The council unanimously elected Warren Lieberman as vice mayor.

Dana Yates can be reached by e-mail: dana@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106. What do you think of this story? Send a letter to the editor: letters@smdailyjournal.com.

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