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Taxpayers in Manteca find out council talk isn’t cheap

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POSTED April 3, 2017 1:22 a.m.

It’s a great talk.

So when is the Manteca City Council going to do the walk?

Three years ago they started talking about the importance of succession planning to prepare for when key municipal employees retire or leave. They also talked about the importance of grooming loyal and dedicated workers in the municipal workforce so they can tackle jobs above their current pay grades.

They gave then City Manager Karen McLaughlin marching orders: Do it.

A year ago the council made it clear once again. The city needs to provide additional training — whatever it takes — to help the workforce that was not only loyal through the city’s darkest moments but forsook 20 percent in compensation and came up with every possible option to keep the city going with almost 20 percent less workers.

Elected officials wanted succession planning. They wanted continuality. They wanted to grow future leadership and boost employee morale at the same time.

Then McLaughlin announced her pending retirement. Employees on their own volunteered to execute the city council’s vision. They developed a vision statement in terms of what they needed to do to take city services for Manteca’s 76,000 residents to the next level. 

Then along came Elena Reyes.

The council fell under her spell and hired a consultant to preempt what the city employees were doing. Long story short: Elena Reyes as city manager isn’t working out. These things happen. It’s life. They’re parting ways April 14.

The consultant, by the way, agreed to part ways as well after reaching an amicable settlement deal for a large chunk of his original $57,000 contract.

Meanwhile the council had enough competence in existing staff to do four rather remarkable things. First, it was promoting Assistant Public Works Director Greg Showerman to acting city manager without having to spend $70,000 on a head hunter. Then Showerman did something equally remarkable. He promoted Jodie Estarziau to police chief and Kyle Shipherd to fire chief. The smart money as of Nov. 28 before the city manager cake walk music stopped was that outsiders had the inside track.

Then the fourth amazing thing. The City Council realized they had a gem in Showerman and appointed him as community development director. It’s a job he’ll take when a new city manager is onboard.

The feedback from council members, the general public, and municipal staff is Showerman is going an impressive job. The same goes for the new chiefs.

This brings us to the $13,000 question. Why is a head hunter needed to do a national search for a fire battalion chief?

Maybe we’re missing something. This is the same council that didn’t have to do a national search in recent months to promote police officers to sergeant.

Are were saying there are no competent firefighters in house capable of being battalion chief?

If is about making sure we get the best possible candidate then why wasn’t a consultant hired for $13,000 to conduct a national search for the police sergeant positions?

What happened to the city council’s budget goal of succession planning and employee training to home grow the best workforce, boost employee morale, and assure continuality in a bid to take city services to the next level?

And why do we need to keep spending more on consultants? Come on, it’s a battalion chief. That isn’t meant to demean the position it’s just that it is not the fire chief, police chief, or city manager for that matter.

Are were saying Manteca has no firefighters capable of stepping up or are we saying Manteca has managed to go three years without doing a single thing to implement the council’s directive about staff training and succession planning?

Oops. I forgot. The council didn’t hire a consultant to do it so it didn’t get done.

When do we say enough?

What does it take to have a city work force that is competent and innovative enough to meet whatever standard is being set so that every time the city needs to fill a mid-management position that they don’t run to the council to ask them to authorize a check to hire a consultant?

It’s only money, right?

And it’s just $13,000 from the Public Safety Tax that can’t be use for anything else.

Here’s a suggestion. If that $13,000 is burning a hole in elected officials’ pockets and they consider it an inconsequential amount, why not spend it instead on overtime for targeted traffic enforcement?

Manteca’s accidents keep increasing. There are more deaths than ever on our streets. Traffic tickets are down. Is there a correlation?

Maybe instead of using common sense the city needs to hire a consultant to see if more aggressive traffic enforcement might calm down the carnage on Manteca streets.

Talk isn’t cheap. It cost a large chunk of $57,000 for a consultant that did work on a municipal vision that will never see the light of day. Now the council is going to spend $13,000 because apparently they’ve been all talk for the past three years about succession planning and sharpening the current workforce with additional training.

The biggest question remains: When is the city council going to do the walk?

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