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Grass Valley considering change in management style

Grass Valley’s government leadership structure will be up for consideration today at a meeting of the town’s government.

A consultant working for the city in the wake of City Administrator Dan Holler’s reported resignation in late August has prepared a report for the council that asks its members to consider whether to convert the municipality to a city manager form of governance.

“It would change the type of government,” said Public Works Director Tim Kiser, who is the acting city manager until Holler’s replacement is found or until the city hires an interim leader.



Since 1985, Grass Valley has operated with a city administrator, hired by the council to manage the city staff and oversee the daily operations of the city. However, in November 2012, voters approved a number of alterations to the city charter, including one that allows for the conversion to a city manager form of government by enacting an ordinance, according to City Attorney Michael Colantuono.

“(T)he author of the report would recommend the city council give strong consideration to the creation of the city manager form of government for the long-term health and welfare and fiscal viability of Grass Valley,” wrote consultant Jeff Foltz.




In both a city manager and city administrator form of government, the mayor’s role is largely ceremonial, presiding over the council meetings and appearing as the public face of the city.

But in Grass Valley’s city administrator model, the administrator works closely with the mayor and council to see that their policies are implemented, according to city documents.

Where a city manager appoints and manages all city employees, including taking disciplinary action with termination authority in accordance with the city’s personnel rules and policies, a city administrator does not. Instead, the administrator only provides indirect supervision of all city operations and employees and evaluates their performance, according to the city’s description of that position.

Talks of converting to a city manager surfaced in the wake of Holler’s resignation, when the city turned to Foltz, who was an interim city administrator prior to Holler’s 2008 hiring, to once again help in that transitional role. However, the state’s employee pension program prohibited his rehiring in the same role twice, so Colantuono offered the change to a manager as a viable alternative.

“This is just an initial action for council to give us direction on how they want to proceed forward.”

“The major intent is to make sure that council wants to move forward with a city manager form of a government,” Kiser said.

In establishing an initial job description of a prospective city manager, an emphasis was placed on leadership, fiscal management and keeping the council informed, Foltz wrote.

Born out of the U.S. progressive reform movement at the turn of the 20th century, the manager system was designed to combat corruption and unethical activity in local government by promoting effective management within a transparent, responsive and accountable structure, according to the International City/County Management Association.

Since its establishment, the manager form has become the most popular structure of local government in the United States. Of the nearly 250 U.S. cities with populations greater than 100,000 residents, 58 percent use a city manager form of government. Nevada City also uses a city manager, along with countries throughout the world such as Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

If council decides to endorse Foltz’ proposal, city staff will proceed to craft an urgency ordinance to repeal the city administrator position from the city municipal code and replace it with a city manager form of government. Kiser said the process could take a month, not including the hiring process, or potentially twice that length if council does not want an urgency ordinance.

“Because there is an urgency in filling the chief administrative officer of the city to assure the continuity of leadership and to protect the health and welfare of the community, the city council could initiate the adoption of an urgency ordinance creating the position of city manager,” Foltz wrote.

“The alternative would be to remain with the city administrator form of government and authorize a recruitment to fill the vacant position of city administrator under the current salary and duties,” Foltz also wrote.

The public portion of today’s council meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and an agenda for that meeting can be found on the city’s website, http://cityofgrassvalley.com.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

Editor’s Note: An version of this story incorrectly stated how long the Grass Valley has operated with a City Administrator form of government. The current has been amended to reflect the accurate inception of the governing style. The Union regrets the error.


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