On the job for less than a year, Hermosa’s city manager to exit
Hermosa Beach City Manager Sergio Gonzalez, hired last May to replace former City Manager Tom Bakaly, will resign next month.
Gonzalez’s last day with the city will be March 22. He is leaving for a job in the San Gabriel Valley, closer to the his home and family, according to a statement from the city.
The city council of Azusa voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a contract with Gonzalez. Addressing the council following the vote, Gonzales said, “It was a difficult decision to leave the current city, but let me tell you it was an easy decision to come to Azusa.”
Monday night, during a closed meeting, the Hermosa city council selected John Jalili as interim city manager. The Manhattan Beach resident also served as interim City Manager following Bakaly’s departure in November 2016. “We have a lot on our plate right now, and John is absolutely the right guy. He knows our city,” said Mayor Jeff Duclos.
Gonzalez previously served as City Manager in South Pasadena. He did not move to the South Bay when he got the job in Hermosa. During an Easy Reader interview following his hiring, Gonzalez said that the council had encouraged him to move to the area. At the time, Gonzales, who is married with twin daughters in elementary school, said “I’m having that conversation with my family right now.”
According to the statement from the city, Gonzalez often spent three hours per day commuting, and that the distance from home meant that he often had to miss city functions.
“Being present and visible as a city leader is something that every successful City Manager works toward,” Gonzalez wrote in his Feb. 14 letter of resignation.
Gonzalez was around for a relatively brief amount of time — Bakaly spent four years as City Manager — but his tenure coincided with major moves for the city. He was in the City Manager’s chair when the City Council voted to approve PLAN Hermosa, the once-in-a-generation update to its General Plan and Local Coastal Program. And he helped the city transition from having an independent fire department to contracting with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Gonzalez was approved unanimously in May. He arrived in the city with an understanding of the various levers of local government in Southern California, accumulated over years spent battling CalTrans over an extension of the 710 Freeway. At the most recent council meeting on Tuesday, Gonzalez helped settle a question about the use of a form contract used in a grant application to the transportation agency.
He appeared to get along well with the council, and attended a victory party for newly elected council members on election night in November. One notable exception to the harmony came recently, when Councilmember Hany Fangary criticized Gonzalez’s decision to withdraw from a contract for a firm that sought out grants for the city. Fangary publicly criticized the move, arguing that the contract brought far more revenue to the city than it expended in the contract, and said he was disappointed that Gonzalez had made the decision without consulting the council.
Also on Monday night, the council formed a search committee helmed by Duclos and Mayor pro tem Stacey Armato. Duclos said that the council would be seeking someone capable of providing leadership for the looming projects in the city, including a lengthy capital improvement program, while also having the right personality to mesh with the council and existing staff.
Quoting famed basketball coach John Wooden, Duclos said the search committee’s attitude would be “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Bakaly became CEO of the Beach Cities Health District in November 2016. Gonzalez’s hiring did not become official until May of last year. Although Duclos said the search will be equally comprehensive, he does not expect the hiring process to take as long this time, in part because it can use materials created during the search for Bakaly’s replacement. In the days since the announcement of Gonzalez’s coming exit, Duclos said the city has already received expressions of interest from several potential candidates.
Duclos did not confirm whether, following the brief tenure of Gonzalez, the search would place greater emphasis on a local candidate or one willing to relocate. But he said it would be a factor.
“You never know how these things are going to play out. It’s certainly a consideration.”