■ By Kyle Selby / Reporter
Back in February, Rob Johnson, former city manager of Menifee for the past four years, succeeded Tim Hults as the new city manager of San Jacinto. However, Johnson was not the only defector from Menifee. Three other known Menifee city staff members have also migrated to San Jacinto since March.
Several local citizens have shared concerns that the city of San Jacinto does not have the budget to support the salaries of the incoming staff, given the staff layoffs the city experienced in 2014. Others feel that a failed city staff career in Menifee will guarantee a fresh new start in San Jacinto.
Johnson, who brought sit-down restaurants and developer relationships to Menifee, offered clarification on his decision to bring his old crew with him.
“It was important during my interview process to seek the City Council’s advice on what type of change management they were comfortable with. My background is that of identifying gaps and moving quickly to fill those, either with staff on hand or new staff coming in to fill the need,” explained Johnson. “As I have worked in several fast moving, up-tempo, development-centered cities in my career (Menifee, Corona, Murrieta and Oceanside), I needed to know that the Council was supportive of my desires to bring change to San Jacinto and was truly desiring that from their next city manager.”
Current staff overburdened; growth expected
Johnson says that one of the main reasons he took the position was that he and the rest of the City Council share the same optimism for San Jacinto, and see its growth potential.
“After accessing the needs in San Jacinto for the first 60-plus days, I immediately saw the following: we have good, hardworking staff, but too much compaction was put on them with the layoffs from 2014. Most were/are doing several jobs for the same pay, and most enjoy what they are doing, but can’t get to all they need to get to,” said Johnson.
Due to the impact on staff, says Johnson, the city:
• Was not in a position to focus on desperately needed economic development;
• Was not able to focus on special events (special events are the lifeblood of creating community);
• Was not focused on technology innovation (need to get faster, newer, more secure and more innovative);
• Needed to prepare for new development.
“All of these needs, among others, needed to be addressed by me immediately – and I needed to identify current or new staff to be able to perform the function(s).”
New executive staff positions created
Special Projects/Land Use Manager Bob Brady (formerly Menifee’s community development director) filled his new position on March 8. Executive Coordinator Tara Magner (former executive coordinator for Menifee), and Manager of Information Services Derek Williamson (former information technology manager for Menifee) both filled their positions in May. Haven’t heard of those positions before? That’s because all three positions are indeed brand new to the city of San Jacinto.
Johnson said that after he determined the needs of the city, he had to reorganize for certain accommodations to fit those needs.
“After determining the needs of the organization, I asked for [City] Council approval for three positions: deputy city manager, manager of IT Services, and executive coordinator,” explained Johnson. “The positions were posted online and the city held an open recruitment for these positions. The deputy city manager position currently remains unfilled.”
The manager of information systems position was removed during the 2014 layoffs. According to Johnson, as the city ages, it needs to maintain competitive balance with industry standards —which made it “imperative” to rehire for the position. Some of Williamson’s contributions will include a new city website, a new agenda management process, a new keycard entry system, upgraded surveillance in the parks, and technological improvements in public works and at City Hall. The starting salary for this position is $129,000-$145,700, including benefits.
“Without someone with Derek Williamson’s knowledge, ability and professional experience in a municipal setting, we would not be able to be successful with our innovative technological solutions,” said Johnson. “This position was being handled through a contract for day-to-day services, without providing any of the focused solutions that we are working on now. We are transitioning to break away from the contract services that are no longer needed.”
The position of executive coordinator was also removed during the layoffs, but Johnson brought it back – with additional duties. Magner is tasked with coordinating information, communication, scheduling and administrative functions of the city manager’s office. City special events, marketing and publicity, social media, communication with both chambers of commerce, City Council calendar, supporting economic development team needs, ancillary information and studies, as well as additional duties all fall under the executive coordinator’s responsibilities. Previously, this position was being juggled by two or three city staffers who had other existing duties. The starting salary for this position is $70,900-$84,900, including benefits.
“With Tara Magner and her nearly 10 years’ experience in a variety of municipal executive support settings, the city manager and City Council have a dedicated employee to handle a wide variety of issues that need immediate attention, as well as assisting to produce special events and work with community groups and the chambers to create successful relationships and be a point person for the City on a wide variety of issues and programs,” said Johnson.
Previously outsourced to a contract planning firm and managed by the development director, the planning director position turned into the special projects/land use manager. Johnson felt that it needed more attention and should be directed by a staff person who has experience with fast-paced development environments, so the development director can focus on more economic development strategies. This position pays $50 per hour, including benefits.
“Bob Brady is a retired employee with 30-plus years in community development, planning, special projects, and a former city manager of Lake Elsinore,” Johnson explained. “Bob has a tremendous ability to lead people and projects and prepare San Jacinto for upcoming development. He is restricted to 960 hours in a fiscal year, so he is being asked to get a handle and organize our planning department before his departure in the coming months.”
Additional enforcement personnel added
City Council has also added three police deputy positions for this year’s budget: two problem-oriented POP deputies and one accident investigator, as well as two code enforcement officers and a code enforcement supervisor.
“The City was [and still is] understaffed and we hope to create more positions and bring on more much needed staff in the future, if revenue can support it,” Johnson stated.