Santa Rosa City Council members have publicly had nothing but praise for City Manager Kathy Millison since she announced her retirement earlier this year.
But on Tuesday night, as they described the qualities they would like to see in a new city manager, several council members made it clear they are hoping the next top executive will bring a new type of leadership to the city.
"It's a privilege to live here. We're all doing what we do here because we love this community," Mayor Scott Bartley said. "And I think we need to find a city manager that can come here and embrace it with the same attitude."
Bartley was one of several council members who expressed a strong desire for the next city manager to either already live in Santa Rosa or be required to live here after they are hired.
Millison, 62, was hired in 2010 from Clovis, but never moved to Santa Rosa full-time, keeping her home in Clovis and often returning home on weekends. Councilman Jake Ours went even further to say the person should not only live here but be committed to the city and "experience this city."
"By that I mean, when we go out to a city event, we will see our city manager at that event," Ours said.
Several council members also stressed a desire for a city manager with experience in labor negotiations. It wasn't hard to see why. Dozens of members of the city's largest employee union, the Santa Rosa City Employee Association, packed the rear of the council chambers wearing white shirts in a show of dissatisfaction that they've been working without a contract since August.
Millison has won praise for helping put the city back on more stable financial footing, but it has come at the cost of employee morale. Employee concessions have been a big part of balancing the city's budget and many employees want to see those sacrifices recognized through pay restoration.
Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom said she wanted "someone who understands employee negotiations from an employee perspective, not just from a management perspective."
The council members and public were providing their input to the city's recruiter, David Morgan, a senior consultant with Ralph Andersen & Associates, who will use the input to draft the job description.
Morgan said Santa Rosa is a large, complex city, with its own transit system, wastewater treatment plant and numerous employee unions, and it needs a manager with significant experience managing a complex operation, Morgan said.
The person must have at least eight years of managing such an organization, as well as the equivalent of a master's degree in public or business administration, he said.
"I expect to bring you candidates that far exceed this," Morgan said.
The ability to work collaboratively with city council members who may hold disparate political views or goals is also an extremely important quality in an effective leader, he said.
"In my experience, good city managers make their councils better," Morgan said.
Where Millison stands on that score is clearly a matter of opinion. But Councilwoman Julie Combs said there is a "split council" that will likely remain so for several years.
"We need vision and leadership, not just management," Combs said. "And part of that is to help the council come together as a whole."