Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 20, 2015

Approve memos (like a boss)

Filed under: Alameda, City Council — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

It’s official, John Russo is moving on and it looks like although he is moving on down to Southern California he’s also getting a much more plush gig than Alameda.   From a press release by the City of Riverside:

Russo will take over the job from Interim City Manager Lee C. McDougal, who has served since former City Manager Scott Barber retired Dec. 28. Russo will be introduced to the Riverside community at a City Council meeting Tuesday (2/24) at 1 p.m. in the council chambers, 3900 Main Street. He expects to conclude his responsibilities in Alameda and join Riverside May 4.

I found a cached version of the search documents for the Riverside City Manager job.   Here’s “The Opportunity”

The award winning City of Riverside, California (population 303,871) isrecruiting nationally for a City Manager with a highly successful career and a demonstrated record of inclusive and transparent leadership inguiding an organization. Working with the Mayor and a 7-member City Council, the City Manager oversees a capable staff of approximately 2,497 with a 2014/15 operating budget of approximately $915 million.The ideal candidate will have excellent leadership, communication,and decision making skills, and be a person of superior integrity and unquestionable ethics. The ideal candidate will be a highly skilled public administrator eager to contribute his or her creative and insightful leadership to help shape the future of this unique community with an outstanding quality of life.

Going from a city of 75,000 to 303,000!  That’s quite the leap.  And now he has seven City Council members (plus one Mayor) to keep happy as opposed to only five.   As an aside Riverside has a “ward” system where the individual City Council members are elected by their ward and the Mayor is elected citywide.


Not only is the population a whole lot bigger, but there are some huge employers and other government systems to keep happy.  For example Riverside is home to UC Riverside, the County of Riverside, Riverside County Office of Education, Riverside School District , and the Riverside Community College District.  Suffice it to say jobs are definitely not lacking in Riverside.

Wishing John Russo good luck on his new job!  He’ll be joining another previous Alameda staff member, Girish Balachandran, in Riverside.

Now, what does this mean about Alameda’s City Manager position.  Well, more likely than not we’ll also have to put out a search as well.  The last time, the City did not use a search firm but rather ran the search in house.  Here’s the brochure from the last time around.  And the City, last time around, whittled the huge stack of applications to a list of three and then allowed a subcommittee of five community members (one pick per City Councilperson) to run an interview panel plus five pre-selected community members that were selected by the then Mayor and Vice Mayor to give their recommendation.

I think this process ended up working fairly well.  There was a super strong list of community members on the initial list that was agreed upon by the Mayor and Vice-Mayor.  It would be simple enough to hew closely to that list again:

  • Margie Sherratt, Vice President – Board of Education, Alameda Unified School District
  • Jordan Battani , President – Alameda Hospital Board
  • Dr. Jannett Jackson , President – College of Alameda
  • Doug Biggs, Director – Alameda Point Collaborative
  • Jeff Cambra – Alameda Business Alliance West Alameda Business Association/Chamber of Commerce

The City Council could opt to run the search now and hope that the process runs its course before John Russo’s exit on May 4, or they could opt to appoint an Acting or Interim City Manager to warm the seat to give more time to the process.  Should be interesting to see how many candidates Alameda gets this time around.  Last time there were a whopping 65 applicants for the job.  Hopefully we’ll see some quality candidates this time around.  I can tell you one person who won’t go for the job this time around, and that’s David Brandt who is at the helm of the City of Apple, I mean Cupertino.



  1. John Russo will very much be missed. His list of accomplishments during his short tenure in Alameda is long, which has created a very high bar for the next City Manager in my opinion.

    I wish him all the best in his new position at the City of Riverside!

    Comment by Karen Bey — February 20, 2015 @ 6:25 am

  2. Unfortunate he’s leaving. Can you imagine having a boss like Spencer? In my management-training classes, I’m always told people leave because of their manager, not the company. I guess this is a clean break unlike last time, when it wasn’t over till the fat lady sued (and lost).

    Comment by BC — February 20, 2015 @ 8:01 am

  3. Here is the reason they needed him

    Comment by frank m — February 20, 2015 @ 8:10 am

  4. Buh, bye! Riverside should be a good fit.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — February 20, 2015 @ 8:56 am

  5. Can’t say I didn’t anticipate this. The timing is appropriate and fortuitous. John has so much to offer, all the stuff the Riverside Job Description stated and stuff unmentioned. While he will be SORELY missed, I’m so very happy for him, his family…and for Riverside…. I guess. I’m feeling a bit weak in the knees about Alameda’s future.

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — February 20, 2015 @ 8:58 am

  6. 3, sounds like they need Matt “Clear Cut” Neclario. Just kidding. Actually the new trees on Park are looking better and better and it isn’t taking that long. The new light poles are also great. The scale of the street scape has been successfully reintegrated.

    Comment by MI — February 20, 2015 @ 11:39 am

  7. “I can tell you one person who won’t go for the job this time around, and that’s David Brandt who is at the helm of the City of Apple, I mean Cupertino.”

    Amen sister! Can’t wait for that Apple car to come out.

    Comment by David Brandt — February 20, 2015 @ 1:06 pm

  8. Wow, he made a big difference. Sorry to see him leave. Riversides big gain is our very large loss.

    Comment by Jake — February 20, 2015 @ 2:06 pm

  9. Hey, David we still miss you here on the island. John Piziali

    Comment by John P. — February 20, 2015 @ 2:20 pm

  10. Thanks John, there are still a lot of good people both in the City organization and the community.

    Comment by David Brandt — February 20, 2015 @ 3:54 pm

  11. I am sorry to see him leave, but happy that he is going to the very nice city that I spent year 1 through 9 of my life. I hope he and Riverside both benefit.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — February 20, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

  12. He is gone just like :
    – The Fire Chief “one of the many”
    – The City Attorney
    – The public work Director
    – The Planning Director
    – The school superintendent
    Interesting turnout lately , don’t let any bridge hit you , or doors , on your way out .
    As you can see the City has been functioning without your essential services , you might want to take a chain saw with you , they have a serious tree problem , Say hello to our Friend from Suncal ….
    we will all miss you , NOT !

    Comment by arnold — February 20, 2015 @ 9:14 pm

  13. Haaaa Haaa … great day in Alameda … Take JKW with you and hurry out of town

    Comment by jo — February 21, 2015 @ 7:17 am

  14. arnold, jo. wrong blog, I think your looking for action alameda.

    Comment by John P. — February 21, 2015 @ 9:46 am

  15. johnP .. feeling a little thin skinned today?
    Respect my opinion too!

    Comment by jo — February 21, 2015 @ 10:15 am

  16. Paul Foster has championed Trish as “critical thinker”. Some of us disagree. The thing about supporters of Trish is that there are also large gaps in their thought process sometimes. The list in 12 might be case in point. Included are various people who have left Alameda includes those who have left for various reasons in various circumstances. Some of them have been the darlings of those who support Trish. They were not all driven out like snakes by Saint Patrick, so what is the punch line of the list? Perhaps that Alameda is just full of grumpy assholes from one ilk another who make it a hostile place to work? I believe Neclario was nudged out by Russo after the tree debacle. You can please some of the people some of the time, etc.

    Comment by MI — February 21, 2015 @ 11:25 am

  17. we know who JKW is and we know who I’am, both of us volunteer to serve our city. I’m not familiar with the anonymous jo.

    Comment by John P. — February 21, 2015 @ 12:03 pm

  18. I agree with Mark. The list in #12 covers a lot of time and a number of players. I also don’t think all the reaching back to prove that everyone before the current Mayor/Council was evil, paid for by developers, hell bent on selling off our parks to the highest bidder, mean to the public, and on and on and on does much to move the City forward. It would be better, I think to spend our time in shaping positive and community acceptable policies to go on from here. Beating dead horses does not help you, or the horse. Big time waster. We don’t need to find fault with the past to build the future. Just stay focused on what to do now, keep as transparent as possible, and encourage public input.

    Comment by Kate Quick — February 21, 2015 @ 12:08 pm

  19. Smart man, but poor administrator with an aggressive bullying management style antithetical to the Alameda political scene. He wore out his welcome in Oakland and Alameda, as he didn’t think much of his bosses in either place. Russo ran the city- Marie Gilmore was a figure head. Whether you were (or are )for rapid development, or slower development, makes no difference to an objective analysis of his effectiveness, He made himself an issue in the mayoral election, which Gilmore lost by only 129 votes. That’s a no-no for an administrator. Good administrators should be seen and not heard. We need a much better fit.

    All those poor hires listed in #12 should make anyone shake their head and ask what the heck was going on at City Hall? Alameda paid search firms and HR people to find and vet them for us?

    Comment by Breathless — February 21, 2015 @ 12:53 pm

  20. Ah, dear Breathless, many of those folk were hired before the last Council/City Manager. Spend your time on the now and the future and let the old stuff go.

    Comment by Kate Quick — February 21, 2015 @ 6:05 pm

  21. 16
    Ah, Mark, you are hereby nominated for the position of Poet Laureate for the grumpy assholes of this fair city’s critical thinkers who totally agree with your claptrap.

    Comment by jack — February 21, 2015 @ 6:28 pm

  22. #19 — I disagree, the City Manager led the fight and negotiated with the Navy to get us a no cost conveyance at Alameda Point — the previous price tag was $108m.

    Furthermore, the City Manager negotiated and got us $7.6m in community benefits from the Del Monte deal – $2m of the $7.6m was paid upfront (meaning before construction starts) towards the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park.

    You won’t get this kind of talent from someone who is “silent and not heard”.

    Comment by Karen Bey — February 22, 2015 @ 7:51 am

  23. I am sad to hear that John is leaving. I am a little apprehensive with what could happen in Alameda without him. He is a creative, intelligent, forward thinking, rational city manager. He also did much to help Oakland when he where he was a city councilman and city attorney. He is the one who initiated changes which eventually became Splash Pad Park and Trader Joes in Oakland.

    If you think he is a bully, as number 19 said, do not go to NY, you will be eaten alive! He is mild by most NY standards of behavior. He does not exhibit the phony politeness that people in the Bay area are accustomed to.

    Our loss, Riverside’s gain. I am happy for him and wish him the best.

    Comment by Elaine — February 22, 2015 @ 12:58 pm

  24. Elaine, I agree I would much rather have a City Manager like John Russo than what we have had going back to and including Jim Flint. I like that Brooklyn attitude.

    Comment by John P. — February 22, 2015 @ 2:11 pm

  25. 21. Rock ( Wall) on daddio! amazing how pointing out a little inconsistency makes you sputter so, and your comeback is always to insult me with stuff like “douche” and “clap trap” which you wear so well on your own sleeve. This time I was just pointing out ( legitimately, I think ) that Arnold’s list didn’t make that much sense. Last time you attacked me it was because I was weighing in with contradictory feelings, imagine that. I was disagreeing with myself. that was a) things like livable wages are good thing, but b) how far can we go legislating rules for grocery stores. As far as “clap trap”, I think your obscure “do re mi” reference takes that prize. But tell us the truth Jack, it was use of “Big Gubmint” that really lit your fuse wasn’t it?

    Comment by MI — February 22, 2015 @ 2:55 pm

  26. Gee, I sure missed a lot when I was down with allergies (last week) and the flu (this week)–all this snark over John Russo leaving! (Who’d-a thunk it, eh?)

    I will miss John Russo’s creativity and intellect as well as his insistence on transparency. He is leaving Alameda for a bigger salary and more responsibility in a city where he will be better appreciated. Can’t blame him much for that, although why *anyone* would want to live in Southern California is still beyond my comprehension.

    I will *not* miss John Russo’s temper and his sometimes-aggressive approach to what could have been conflict resolution instead of escalation. But I’d still rather have John Russo than almost any other city manager I know: he is leaving Alameda in much better shape than he found it, and I am grateful for that.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — February 28, 2015 @ 11:20 pm

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