Political Climate with Mark Simon: Housing costs scaring off high-level talent for government jobs

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Housing costs scaring off high-level talent for government jobs

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate

The announcement that Mike Callagy had been named as the new San Mateo County manager touched off a wave of delight throughout the county.

Retiring County Manager John Maltbie had groomed Callagy for the job, naming him assistant county manager in 2016, three years after he joined the county, following 29 years with the San Mateo Police Department.

Between his high-profile position in San Mateo and his tenure at the county, Callagy built a reputation as a positive presence who relished getting things done and making county government work more effectively.

Born and raised in San Mateo County, Callagy has deep roots in the community and a wide network of those who have worked with him.

It’s always an interesting question whether it’s an advantage or disadvantage to stay with an organization and seek to move up. Familiarity can be a benefit, but a new face often is seen as fresh and, therefore, intriguing.

Insiders say the finalists included a strong candidate from elsewhere in the Bay Area, and, among other things, that’s another sign of a longstanding problem that plagues local government in the region.

Bay Area local governments are finding it nearly impossible to hire a high-level manager from outside the region. More than one public agency has recruited executives from somewhere else in the country, only to have them come to the Bay Area, take one look at the housing costs, turn around and head back.

That reality was implicit in the finalists for the county manager position, both of whom already live here.

And it means that local governments increasingly will poach from one another for the next city manager, public works director or police chief.

A FAMILY LEGACY: Many things undoubtedly will be said about San Mateo County Manager John Maltbie as his final retirement date approaches, but one of them that shouldn’t be overlooked is his ability to imbue in his family the spirit and value of public service.

John’s daughter, Jayme Ackemann, is director of Corporate Communications at San Jose Water Company, a private company with a very public mission. Before that, she worked for SamTrans and Caltrain and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, carrying on the family tradition of public service. Jayme had the burden of working for me at SamTrans and Caltrain and there is no one brighter, more innovative at communications and more dedicated to the public good.

John’s son, Jeff Maltbie, has been the city manager of San Carlos since 2010, during which he has transitioned from one of the county’s younger, up-and-coming city managers to one of the most experienced civic leaders, a steady hand in a city often struggling with change.

And now, John’s daughter-in-law, Shawnna Maltbie, has been named interim city manager of Daly City, where she has been director of Human Resources.

A LITTLE MORE ERNIE: Last week, we reported that Redwood City Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt had changed his mind since February and said he would enter the increasingly crowded city council race.

We had a chance to catch up with him and talk further about why he changed his mind.

An unsuccessful candidate for the City Council once before, Schmidt said his decision ultimately was spurred by his concern that the special character of Redwood City’s neighborhoods is under threat.

As an example, Schmidt cited a 4-1 vote on the Planning Commission approving a proposal by Mozart Development Company to tear down eight residences in the Mt. Carmel neighborhood and replace them with 17 market-rate townhomes.

Neighbors were particularly upset at the proposal, and Schmidt, the lone vote against the project, said the community outreach by the developer “really wasn’t there.” He wanted the commission to delay deciding on the matter while the developer undertook more community outreach. “I could tell he really wasn’t vested in the community,” Schmidt said.

“When we created the Downtown Precise Plan, we definitely committed to the community that the growth we were going to experience downtown was not going to change the overall character of our community. We are starting to see that it is,” Schmidt said. He is running, he said, to “create some safeguards and tools to protect our neighborhoods.”

Contact Mark Simon at mark.simon24@yahoo.com.

*The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Online.

Photo: San Mateo County