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City manager ‘experience’ issue not only tied to Lutzow

Debby Moorhead — the only council member to serve during the last 30 months that was not interviewed by the San Joaquin County Grand Jury — believes the scathing report the citizens watchdog panel delivered was driven by the political narratives of those making the complaints.

Moorhead served on the council until November of 2020. As such she was an elected official during part of the 30 months or so of council and city management actions that the Grand Jury scrutinized.

She zeroed in one particular point — the report’s sharp criticism of the council for hiring Miranda Lutzow when she had no experience as a city manager.

Moorhead noted the city since 2008 has hired five city managers of which three had no city management experience even as an assistant or deputy city manager.

The former council member indicated former council members that have slammed the current council for appointing Lutzow who had no previous city management experience forget the fact they made previous hires as city managers with no experience in the position. One worked out well and the other was a costly disaster.

Moorhead noted Steve Pinkerton — who now oversees the Mountain House Community Services District — was hired by Manteca from Stockton where he was the director of their redevelopment agency. Pinkerton had extensive experience with economic development but no city management experience.

Pinkerton departed Manteca on good terms when he accepted the job as Davis’ city manager.

Elena Reyes was hired in August 2016 after an open recruitment search was conducted. Prior to being hired in Manteca she had no city manager experience and only oversaw a small staff in her role as senior deputy administrator on charge of economic promotion and development for San Joaquin County.

Reyes was put on paid administrative leave four months after being hired as city manager. She was dismissed four months after she was hired. The city was forced to give her a payout in excess of $240,000.

Lutzow also had no city management experience when she was appointed acting city manager in September 2019. Several months later she was made interim city manager.

Lutzow served right months as either acting or interim city manager until April 2020 when she was hired as city manager on a three-year contract. She was 10 months into that contract when she abruptly resigned at the end of February.

Unlike Reyes, Lutzow departed without a severance package. She is however suing the City of Manteca for a hostile work environment.

Moorhead noted Karen McLaughlin, who was the first female city manager when she was appointed in 2011 to replace Pinkerton, had extensive experience in Manteca as a deputy or assistant city manager.  She served almost five years as city manager.

McLaughlin, like Lutzow, was hired without an outside search.

The city drew criticism for Lutzow’s selection based on the fact she hadn’t even been with the city for nine months when she was elevated to city manager from serving as the human resources director. McLaughlin had more than two decades with the city starting as a program analyst in the city manager’s office.

Moorhead believes Tim Ogden, who was hired in 2017 after Reyes’ departure, had limited city manager experience even though he was the Waterford city manager  from 2011 to 2016. She bases that on the fact Waterford was not only much smaller but it also contracted out almost all municipal services and only had a small city staff.

Manteca, by contrast, is one of California’s few “full service cities” meaning besides its on police and fire departments it also operates its own solid waste, wastewater, and water systems.

After being placed on administrative leave in September 2019, Ogden and the council agreed to mutually part ways in December 2019, some 2½ years after he was hired.

Ogden was hired a month later as Brentwood’s city manager where he still serves today.

Moorhead served for 12 years on the City Council. She is only the fifth woman to serve on the Manteca City Council in the 103 years it has existed as an incorporated city.

It should be noted Moorhead supported the hiring of Pinkerton, McLaughlin, Reyes, and Ogden, and Lutzow as permanent city manager. 


To contact Dennis Wyatt. email