Last week our long time City Manager, Jim Hardy, announced that he would be retiring at the end of June 2015. Jim has been with the City well over 30 years and has been our City Manger for the past 21 years. Under Jim’s stewardship Foster City has grown and thrived. His leadership for these many years has been outstanding and much of what our City is we owe to him. I hope each of you will join me in thanking Jim for his service. Later in 2015 we will hold an event to honor him and I am thinking that we may not have a venue large enough. He leaves an outstanding legacy and he will be missed very much.
When I first started with Foster City as a member of the Planning Commission back in 2006, our senior staff were all in their positions for a long time. Over the intervening 8+ years many have retired and we have many new members of our leadership team. In fact, once Jim retires there will be only one member of the senior management team that has been on the team longer than I have been working for the City. That is quite a turnover and has presented us with issues that prior City Councils have not had to deal with. Not that the newer members of the leadership team are in any way less qualified that those they replaced, but turnover of that magnitude presents challenges in maintaining the City’s identity and focus as an organization.
I think that so far, those that have joined the team have been excellent in incorporating the City’s goals and personality into their various departments. We have not been without a few missteps, but that is certainly to be expected and none of those were major problems for the City. More importantly, the focus and goals of our City have been preserved and our City continues to be an amazing place to live, work and play.
Complicating this senior staff turnover is, as I have discussed many times before, the fact that our City is now built out and as such we need to change our approach to future economic growth and our overall position from reactive to proactive in order to keep what we have while minimizing impacts. I think that so far we have done a pretty good job at that and I have seen a lot of new programs and ideas from our staff as we make these transitions. These things will be the keys to our future and since we are in a time of change, monitoring that change will be critical as well. Someone as strong and committed as Jim Hardy will be necessary for us to succeed and so we must take great care in the selection of his successor.
Starting in January the City Council will begin the process of looking for a new City Manager. Our first efforts will be at the selection of a recruiting firm to assist us in the search. I am sure that we will have many meetings on the issue and that we will solicit public input on the process. For me, I hope to keep the search wide and to look for someone not only with the appropriate prior experience, but someone with strong and proactive leadership skills who can understand Foster City and work with the Council to make it even stronger. Whether that person comes from our current staff or from the outside, I know that we will find a candidate who hopefully will be there to lead us for the next 21 years! This is not a process I want to see us rush through nor do I want to see us select someone just because that person is the best available. We need to take our time and find the right person for our City. It is too critical to our future for us to get this wrong.
I will write further on the process as we move it forward, but would, as always, appreciate your comments.