Febuary 9, 2007

Editorial:

City Manager search should be done in public

Chula Vista City Council bogged down in making selection

As a resident of the City of Chula Vista, when you stop and think about who is running your city, which most hard working citizens might not during their daily routine, you probably would say it was the City Council and would give them all the credit for a well run city. But you would be wrong. The most important person in Chula Vista is the City Manager, he is the person that is guiding the city on a day to day basis, making decisions for the city.

Chula Vista’s charter designates power and authority to Chula Vista’s City Manager similar to that of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for any Fortune 500 company. Yet, since June 6, 2006 the City of Chula Vista has been without a permanent City Manager.

At first, the decision to hire a city manager was delayed until after the elections and the new city council was in place. Since January, the city council has conducted an exhaustive search behind closed doors. This decision, and its process, will not be in the public domain. Chula Vistans will only learn of this critical decision after the fact, and this is wrong. The residents of Chula Vista have the right to know the qualifications, the character, and more importantly, the reasoning of the city council by which they make their decision.

Here is what we do know; the field has been narrowed down to two candidates: City Manager Gary Luebbers of West Jordan, Utah and David Garcia, the County Chief Administrator (CAO) of Yuma County, Arizona.

David Garcia is the CAO of Yuma County with a population of 189,480 residents, 53.6% of which are Hispanic (similar to Chula Vista), and an annual budget of $260,785,886. Mr. Garcia is a veteran of government and is a graduate of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

In contrast, Gary Luebbers, as West Jordan Utah’s City Manager, oversees a city that has a population of 91,444 residents, 10% of which less than are Hispanic (not even close to Chula Vista), and an annual budget of $97,831,156. Mr. Luebbers has a Masters Degree from the University of California in Public Administration.

It would appear that there is a wide gap of experience and requisite qualifications between these two candidates. David Garcia of Arizona appears to surpass the qualifications and work experience of Gary Luebbers of Utah for the position of City Manager of Chula Vista. Should be a no brainier, right?

But this selection process has been bogged down, and seemingly, the city council can’t decide which candidate is best for the city. It is important for the public to know what the distinctions are between the applicants and causing certain council members to hold fast to their beliefs and convictions. This will not only tell us something about the candidates but will also let us know more about our representatives as well!

The council needs to engage in a public process of discussion and dialogue in selecting a new City Manager. Let the two finalists articulate to the people of Chula Vista why they are best suited for the job and how they intend to best serve all the people of Chula Vista in this important position.

It is time for the city to embrace a PUBLIC process that allows the “best person for the job” to be hired to serve as the City Manager for the City of Chula Vista.

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