What is going on with city government at 501 Poli Street in Ventura? An ever growing list of former employees continues at the City of Ventura. Many left on their own accord but some were forced out.
A sample of who has left in recent years includes: three public works directors, two finance directors, two economic development department heads, two Ventura Water directors, two human resources directors, two city managers, assistant city manager, parks and recreation director, community partnership manager, community development director, transportation manager and a public information officer. Well, on the city manager front, one retired. All others have moved on to greener pastures. Why, you ask? So are we.
When it comes to municipal work: good pay, great benefits and retirement, it would seem to attract and keep quality employees and encourage long-term employee retention. But that’s not happening and Venturans want to know why. The continuation of revolving positions points to a systemic problem at city hall and makes running the city harder and less effective. The city is losing talented people and their institutional knowledge on matters big and small. This is especially concerning given the string of longtime department heads now gone with only newcomers in charge.
We have heard from former employees over the last couple of years that the city management culture was negative for growth and new ideas, with at least one councilmember blaming that same culture for the reason that leadership, especially former City Manager Mark Watkins, couldn’t properly manage to get the city moving full speed ahead. There seems to be a glitch in the system, but who is the wizard behind the curtain pulling these strings?
It appears to us to be less about the administrative management and more about a few elected officials directing the show on a micro level without accountability for the city’s failings. Pay attention to the common denominators on City Council who have remained as leadership waned. The city of Ventura is still dealing with the aftermath of the Thomas fire, the potential for and actual flooding, increasing homeless and crime issues and a dwindling commercial district that is not being addressed.
The city seems to lack vision for its 110,000+ residents. From our conversations, it’s boiling down to the vision from a few councilmembers who have an agenda and a lack transparency about their true purpose in guiding the city, City Hall and its culture.
Alex McIntyre, the new city manager, has his work cut out for himself. Whether he takes a leadership role as Rick Cole did before he became persona non grata or if he leans back as Mark Watkins did before he retired remains to be seen. Whether the new faces on the council provide a new vision and contest the status quo of the old guard also remains an unanswered question. And whether Matt LaVere, Ventura’s new mayor, steps up to deliver the change platform he ran on also remains to be seen. City residents will be watching and we’ll be continuing to ask the questions that are important in the future. The buck stops with the City Council and they need to be held accountable.