Oxnard city manager finalists meet the public
Chandra Wallar and Greg Nyhoff get up close and personal with residents
By Chris O'Neal 04/03/2014
The search continues for an Oxnard city manager, but the field has narrowed significantly. If Wednesday night's special meeting of the city council is any indication, the decision could be reached sooner rather than later.
The two finalists selected by the council from a field of 54, Greg Nyhoff, city manager of Modesto, and Chandra Wallar, former CEO of Santa Barbara, sat through over an hour's worth of commentary from the packed meeting room at the Residence Inn in Oxnard, followed by a short meet and greet session.
Since January 2012, Oxnard has made do without a permanent city manager. Former city manager Ed Sotelo was placed on paid administrative leave while under investigation for corruption by the Ventura County district attorney's office. While in the end no charges were filed, at least a dozen former officials were fined. The DA cited bad record keeping for making prosecution impossible.
Many long-time Oxnard residents expressed their dismay over the candidate selection and accused the council of being non-transparent in the search.
"I object to your consideration of any candidate who brings his or her own controversial baggage to our city when we were desperately trying to shed our own," said Oxnard resident Dan Pinedo. "If these two candidates are the best, I am stunned."
While the crowd of close to 150 people had mostly general comments to make to the city council in regard to transparency, ethics and the selection process, some criticized Wallar for moving regularly from city to city, and questioned why, by a five to zero vote, her contract was not renewed by the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors.
Accusations of racism in the selection process came hours before the meeting when the local chapter of the NAACP questioned why interim city manager Karen Burnham wasn't given an interview for the position. Many in attendance refuted the racism claims, pointing to other prominent members of the city government who are African-American or Latino.
Nyhoff used his introductory time to talk about his accomplishments and compare the job of city manager to building a level foundation, while Wallar, responding to comments made regarding her history, listed examples from her past in which she worked with the communities of Little Rock, Arkansas and San Diego to overcome challenges.
Councilmember Bryan MacDonald said that a decision would more than likely not be made this week, and candidate references are still in the process of being checked.
"I'm more interested in talking to people that they didn't list as a reference," said MacDonald.
The Oxnard city council will meet again next week to discuss the position's potential salary and will once again field public comments about the candidates.
This is a developing story. Follow VCReporter for continuing coverage.