The Crow's Nest

The Crow's Nest

Oxnard, Simi Valley, Ventura: What kind of city manager do you want?

By by Spotter 10/04/2012

The vacancies in Ventura County city manager chairs are just as interesting (maybe more so) as the city council races.

Rick Cole is out in Ventura. Ed Sotelo is on leave in Oxnard until his contract runs out next February, when it won’t be renewed (a tidy, no-contest divorce if ever there was one). And Mike Sedell is leaving the job in Simi Valley.

The replacements for these three city managers could significantly alter the future of three of the four most populous cities in the county. When it comes to city managers, there is the lapdog “follow the direction of the council to the letter” or the passive-aggressive “I heard what you said but I’ll do it my way” and even the “We both know who’s running the place.” Cole fit the middle category best and Sedell basically ran Simi Valley. Sotelo? More the passive-aggressive even though he professed to be the follow-directions type.

There truly are no “favorites” for replacements, no one in any of the cities that is ready to step in. And these vacancies create an interesting question for the councils that will hire to fill them. What do they want? More importantly, what can they muster for a majority vote?

All three cities are at something of a crossroads. They are close to build-out with little room for new residents. They have a mixture of successful and failed (or failing) shopping centers that are the key components of sales tax revenue. Oxnard has a hugely successful auto mall (another sales tax honey) while Simi’s is quiet. Ventura’s is about to get loud. With the movement of the Players Club to the auto mall and a new sign on the horizon, the city seems ready to bulk up its auto mall.

But in a world in which cities just lost their redevelopment dollars and the prospects for future growth are limited, there is a basic question: Who even wants the job? There was a time when being a city manager meant being a builder, someone who could shape the future of Southern California. Today, the job calls more for accounting skills than far-reaching vision. Obviously, there will be candidates. (You have to do something with that graduate degree in public administration.)

Keep your eye on these searches. But don’t hold out for a hero. 


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