Market to set new city manager salary range

By: Lien Hoang, Special to The Placer Herald
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The firm recruiting Rocklin’s next city manager wouldn’t commit to a salary cap, but at a public forum Saturday morning, it agreed there should be limits. “I personally like to have that max number,” said Robert Burg, executive vice president of Ralph Andersen & Associates. “If we have $200,000 and someone comes in expecting $300,000, there’s no way we can hire them.” Accusations of inflated pay have dogged city council in the wake of reports on the salary of outgoing city manager Carlos Urrutia. Despite a declining economy, his full-time salary of $232,776 represented a 42-percent increase over five years, and was on par with that of his counterparts in the Bay Area, where the cost of living is higher. When he switched to part time in December, he collected $137,000 plus $170,000 in pension pay. Still, the consulting firm, along with city council, insisted the market should decide salary. “If you put an absolute limit, you could limit good candidates from applying,” Mayor Scott Yuill said at the forum, before turning the question over to the audience: “What’s your limit?” Former mayor Roy Ruhkala, who instigated the topic by observing, “Everybody is looking at the dollar question more than anything else,” said his ideal range hovers around $125,000. Pay will ultimately be disclosed in December or January, when the new city manager is expected to take over. In the meantime, Saturday’s forum at the council chambers, as well as an online survey that closed Monday, were the public’s only chance to shape the hiring process. Organizers were disappointed, then, that only six residents showed up. “It’s an intimate group,” Burg joked. The city is paying Ralph Andersen & Associates $19,000 to find Urrutia’s replacement, averting a conflict of interest with human resources, which works for the city manager. The Rocklin-based firm estimates a 90- to 120-day search period. The council will interview 10 to 12 candidates in early October, and half as many by the end of the month, with a final decision to follow shortly after. Company president and CEO Heather Renschler invited forum attendees to rank their top priorities for Rocklin, drawing on a list of ideas from the survey. “Public safety is paramount,” followed by financial stability and redevelopment, said Gordon Havens, adding that he chairs the Rocklin Redevelopment Citizens Advisory Committee. But incoming Rocklin Chamber of Commerce chair Dave Butler said, “you have to manage the money that you have effectively,” before you can worry about public safety and other services. Audience members wanted a city manager from California — and therefore more familiar with its laws — who is willing to live in Rocklin. It’d also be nice, they said, if the new city manager lasts as long as Urrutia, whose 26-year tenure outlasts the industry average of two to three years. “We’ve been spoiled with Carlos,” Havens said. “You can walk into City Hall any day and talk to him. Try doing that in Sacramento.” As for the final outcome, Burg summed up Rocklin’s goals: “We’d like the most talent for the least money.”