Debby Moorhead dismisses the derisive social media postings constantly slamming City Manager Miranda Lutzow and her top lieutenants who are sometimes referred to in a sarcastic manner as “those three women.”
“The city manager has done a fabulous job,” noted Moorhead who steps down next month from the City Council after serving 12 years and being defeated by Gary Singh and Charlie Halford in the Nov. 3 election.
She also has high marks for the team approach at the top that includes Lisa Blackmon as assistant city manager and Toni Lundgren as deputy city manager.
“You can get better results when you have people bouncing ideas of each other,” Moorhead said.
Before Lutzow was elevated from interim city manager to city manager 11 months ago, the city manager’s office was essentially a one-horse affair. There were also two program analysts.
Cities between 70,000 and 100,000 residents typically have a city manager and two other top command positions either referred to as assistant managers, deputy managers, or a combination. It is especially true of growing cities as well as the few full-service cities such as Manteca that have their own police and fire departments and operate their own wastewater treatment, water, and solid waste operations.
A previous City Council back in 2008 saw the need for a deputy city manager when they created the position. That allows then City Manager Steve Pinkerton to elevate Karen McLaughlin who had been in an analyst position for years to deputy city manager. When McLaughlin was promoted to city manager after Pinkerton accepted a similar position in Davis, she opted not to fill the position due to salary cuts and the added workloads other employees were being asked to take on due to the Great Recession.
The council balked at the time indicating the workload was too big and critical long-range issues needed to be addressed but ultimately they went along with McLaughlin’s wishes.
Critics have slammed the current council for adding the assistant and deputy positions as simply an unwarranted expanding of the bureaucracy. And among those critics are some who voice objections to those selected to fill them.
Moorhead, though, disagrees.
She can point to initiatives that have been fast-tracked or stalled that have gotten done under Lutzow’s leadership such as the rebuilding of the deteriorating section of Lathrop Road east of Airport Way. Moorhead also believes the level of access and transparency with the city manager’s office has significantly improved. But more importantly Moorhead said things are getting done at city hall instead of languishing.
Moorhead acknowledges Lutzow has her detractors.
“When a new boss comes in nobody likes them because they know there are going to be changes,” Moorhead notes. “You need to get on board or gracefully make an exit.”
Moorhead recalls a similar situation years ago when she was hired to take over management at Leisure Manor. She noted no two people have the same management style and that often times they are hired because their bosses — in this case the City Council — want things to go a different direction, become more efficient and effective or both.
“After I explained to the staff at Leisure Manor (my expectations), I had someone come up afterwards and told me that they understood as ‘a new broom sweeps clean’,” Moorhead said.
Moorhead said when the council made the decision 14 months ago to place then City Manager Tim Ogden on paid administrative leave while some issues were sorted through they had no idea who they were going to appoint as an acting city manager.
They turned to Lutzow who was the city’s Human Resources Director at the time.
“Tim (Ogden) hired Miranda,” Moorhead said. “Tim was her friend. They had worked together before. (Lutzow) had no agenda coming into this.”
After the council and Ogden — who is now Brentwood’s city manager — agreed to part ways, Lutzow was hired as the city manager.
Moorhead doesn’t believe Lutzow is given enough credit for what she had to deal with after stepping in as city manager.
The list includes the anonymous letter from the ranks of the Manteca Police Department regarding former Police Chief Jodie Estarziau, being able to break logjams that were stalling or slowing down projects and initiatives, the reorganization that took place, significant issues in the finance department that most date back three years, the pandemic, and more.
Moorhead pointed out that Lutzow is the first city manager that has ever had to not just pass a background check but also a credit check and a polygraph test.
“She is qualified and has the education including a masters’ degree,” Moorhead added.
Moorhead believe if people were able to meet Lutzow in person or have a dialogue with her that they would come to a much different opinion about her abilities than some do on social media.
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