The Manteca City Council will decide whether to remove the qualifier “interim” from in front of Miranda Lutzow’s title as city manager when they meet Tuesday.
Such a move is considered key if the council wants the city to be able to draw the largest field of qualified candidates to fill department head vacancies in public works, finance, and community development. There is also the human resources department position to fill assuming Lutzow doesn’t return to her old job that she is assured of being able to do under her current contract if she or the council do not want her to continue as city manager.
And depending upon the outcome of an outside investigation of issues raised in an anonymous letter the city received in November that prompted Lutzow to place Police Chief Jodie Estarziau on paid administrative leave, the city could also be in the market for a new head law enforcement officer.
Lutzow indicated if the council doesn’t wish to remove her interim status Tuesday that she will start the search for a replacement.
The council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. Due to social distancing during the pandemic the meeting is closed to the public. It will be streamed live via the city’s website as well as on Comcast Channel 97.
At least one council member — Dave Breitenbucher — is adamant that the city conduct a search for the best possible candidate for the job.
Lutzow who was hired in July as director of human resources was selected by the council to serve as acting city manager when then City Manager Tim Ogden was placed on administrative leave.
Lutzow was made interim city manager effective Dec. 31, 2019. The council then two months later on a 4-1 vote with Breitenbucher dissenting gave Lutzow a 12-month contract through Feb. 4, 2021 to serve as city manager for $240,204. On March 17 — five weeks after the year-long contract for her to work as interim city manager was signed — Mayor Ben Cantu had a new contract brought back before the council. The new contract dropped a reference to being interim, reduces her salary by $6,696 to $233,500, and did not have a set termination date.
The council yanked the contract from the consent calendar on March 17 after technical issues made it difficult for the public to follow council actions remotely after the public was barred due to social distancing rules due to the pandemic.
Prior to being hired by Manteca, Lutzow had a variety of management level jobs in various cities and participated in various aspects of running a city such as developing annual budgets. While she had no prior experience as city manager Lutzow has been running Manteca as city manager for seven months.
Based on information obtained from the California City Manager Foundation it is not unusual for cities to promote department heads to run cities without conducting a search.
Thirty-five percent of the 17 city managers appointed throughout the state during the first three months of this year were promoted directly from being an interim city manager.
Other cities have bypassed
an outside search
The six cities and the position the appointed city manager served in prior to being made an interim city manager and then hired as city manager were Chowchilla, Finance Director; Upland, Public Works Director/City Engineer; Solvang, Administrative Services Director (human resources); Rancho Palos Verdes, Community Development Director; La Mesa, Assistant City Manager; and Simi Valley, Director of Economic Development/Assistant City Manager.
Cantu and the majority of the council believe Lutzow is the right person at the right time to change the direction of the city.
The move to give her permanent status is seen as a way not just to make it clear that they want her as city manager but that they wanted her to put her stamp on city hall by essentially hiring the majority of senior management without having the word “interim” hanging over head.
As one council member noted all city managers are interim given they are at will employees. The big difference is dropping the word “interim” it sends a clear message to the public, developers, and employees as well as potential department heads who are being interviewed that Lutzow is not a caretaker city manager.
The council has entrusted her to lead efforts for a major
reorganization of the city creating more departments in a bid they say to
improve the efficient delivery of services and projects they expect to save
money in the long run.
There is no law requiring councils to open up city manager positions to invite qualified candidates to apply. It is, however, considered best practice by several organizations Lutzow is a member of when it comes to human resources and city administration.
However, it is not Lutzow that set the parameters on how to go about finding a permanent replacement for Ogden. That is a decision reserved for the majority of the council.
Public comments for
Tuesday’s council meeting
Public comments for the special Manteca council meeting taking place on Tuesday must be submitted by no later than 3 p.m. that day. Public comment will be limited to 250 words and every effort will be made by staff to read these comments into the record. Comments that exceed 250 words will not be read into the record and will be made a part of the official record on file with the City Clerk. Comments received after the 3 p.m. deadline will not be read into the record and will be made a part of the official record on file with the City Clerk if received prior to the end of the meeting.
Public Comment may be submitted by firstname.lastname@example.org or they can be hand delivered to the Office of the City Clerk, 1001 W. Center St., Ste. B, Manteca.
For written public comments indicate in the subject line the agenda item number or if the item is related to general public comment.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com