The Crow's Nest
Looking for Mr. Congenial for Ventura’s new city manager
By by Spotter 09/13/2012
The Rick Cole era ended in Ventura last week with a small, polite celebration of the good, the bad and the unspoken.
First, the Spotter has long admired Cole’s intellect, his Big Picture thinking and his refusal to accept the status quo for cities. Cole was usually the smartest guy in the room — and he didn’t mind telling you that. Therein lies the problem. Cole could be dismissive and even downright rude during face-to-face meetings (checking his cellphone when he should have been listening). But when he did talk, Cole’s approach was often haughty and more like a college professor than a city manager. Most suffered through these years because Cole had the support of the City Council, particularly former mayor Bill Fulton (who, by the way, often suffered from the same illness of arrogance).
But just as Fulton began to change when he became mayor (he was likable, funny and warm), Cole must have listened to his job evaluation. Particularly after Fulton left, Cole’s attitude changed. It was pleasant to see someone so smart and focused become polite as well.
Ahhh, too little, too late. Council members had long memories of being stood up or ignored by Cole. Once the new Council members were inaugurated, the wheels driving Cole’s dismissal/resignation began to roll. Yes, Cole “resigned.” But that’s like saying Nixon resigned. It is the principle of jump before you are pushed. But at his retirement party, it was all smiles and handshakes and hugs. Why not? Cole did a good job and Ventura made a lot of progress during his tenure.
What’s next for Ventura? Well, the immediate solution is to bring on former top county executive Johnny Johnston, who is a pro and has been named the city’s interim manager — without pay, by Johnston’s request. For the long-term, this Council will be seeking a manager with a bright mind and consistent manners.