Rancho Palos Verdes City Council



The meeting was called to order at 9:40 a.m. by Mayor Wolowicz in the Community Room at City Hall, 30940 Hawthorne Boulevard.


Present: Councilman Stern, Mayor Pro Tem Long, and Mayor Wolowicz

Absent: Councilman Clark and Councilman Gardiner

Also present was Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru.


Councilman Stern led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.


Councilman Stern moved, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Long to approve the Agenda as presented. Without objection, Mayor Wolowicz so ordered.


1. Interview Executive Search Firms

Mayor Pro Tem Long indicated that he would prefer that the professional services agreement with the selected recruitment firm includes in the guarantee that the firm will help the City conduct a new recruitment at no additional charge (except for expenses) if the first successful candidate either resigns voluntarily within the first year of service or is terminated for cause by the City Council during the same period of time.

Mayor Wolowicz and Councilman Stern agreed with Mayor Pro Tem Long on this point.

Councilman Stern indicated that he preferred to tell the selected recruitment firm what qualifications he was seeking in the new City Manager, rather than filling out a questionnaire.

Mayor Pro Tem Long stated that he would not know what attributes he was looking for until he actually saw the qualifications of the candidates applying for the job. He indicated that he did not want to be encumbered by writing down a long list of criteria and then trying to assign a point system to it.

Mayor Wolowicz questioned if Council had already decided on an approach to ascertain the qualities it wanted in the new City Manager.

Councilman Stern and Mayor Pro Tem Long both felt that no final decision had been made, but indicated that individual interviews with the selected recruiting firm worked best for them, although they wanted each Council members to be able to use the method that worked best for them.

Mayor Wolowicz observed that each one of the Council members is experienced in recruiting for executive level positions in their own firms and that there is a great deal of individuality in the approaches taken in this regard. He indicated that he was still interested in exploring the use of personality profiles to determine how well the candidates work in a team environment, how they react to having five bosses and how well they work under pressure.

Mayor Pro Tem Long felt that the Meyers/Brigg exercise Council engaged in a few years earlier during a workshop setting was useful in better understanding the dynamics of how the Council and staff worked together as a team, but did not see any particular value is using this type of exercise in hiring a new City Manager.

Councilman Stern indicated that he had never used personality tests in conducting any of the hiring for his firm, and while he found the concept interesting, he did not think it would be particularly useful to him. He asked Mayor Wolowicz what specific insight he felt would be surfaced through this effort.

Mayor Wolowicz related that, in his own firm, he had found candidates that were articulate and had the necessary technical background to fill the position, but discovered later that these same individuals did not function well when working under pressure or in situations where the was friction between coworkers. He indicated that while he did not feel badly about losing these people, he did regret the time and effort that had been invested in training and bring them up to speed in the company. He observed that while they had the technical skills, these individuals lacked people skills. He felt that, if there was a way to do it that was not invasive, incorporating a personality test into the recruitment process could provide useful insight into the characters of the candidates.

Mayor Pro Tem Long stated that his firm had used a personality evaluation during a company retreat and noted that he found it useful to know how the people he works with process information and react to different situations. He observed, however, that the person this Council selects as the next City Manager may have a tenure of 10 years or more and that the composition of the City Council may change many times over that period and pointing out that adaptability was a more important characteristic for the new City Manager than trying to find a perfect personality match to the current Council.

Mayor Wolowicz agreed with Mayor Pro Tem Long and indicated that the purpose would not be to match the individual to the current group of elected officials, but to find someone who was able to get along with people in general. He stated that he was comfortable with the concept of using a personality test, provided that it did not unduly prolong the interview process, which he was loath to do.

Mayor Pro Tem Long noted that the two firms previously interviewed indicated that they had vendors they had used in the past to administer the kind of test the Mayor was referring to, and that it would be a relatively simple matter to fold this additional step into the process. He reiterated that each Council member has his own way of processing information.

Mayor Wolowicz welcomed Mr. Bill Avery and advised him that Rancho Palos Verdes has a five-member City Council, but only three members were able to attend the interviews that day. He indicated that Mr. Avery might receive telephone calls from the other two Council members who were unable to attend this interview.

Bill Avery, Avery Associates, introduced himself and stated that he started his career in local government and was the City Manager for the City of Los Gatos, where his consulting firm is now located. He indicated that he has been in the consulting field for the last 25 years, adding that he began in labor negotiations and later added executive recruiting. He stated that Paul Kimura was his business partner and that Mr. Kimura’s background was in the private sector, specifically working for high technology firms, such as Novell. Mr. Avery indicated that his firm has incorporated several private sector techniques in its public sector recruiting efforts.

Mr. Avery indicated that he would be the lead on this recruitment if his firm were to be selected by Council. He indicated that he had extensive experience in recruiting for all top municipal executive positions, including City Managers, Department Heads and City Attorneys. He explained that he customizes the search to fit the needs of each individual city and spends a lot of time searching out qualified candidates from among his contacts. He listed recent recruitments he had completed for cities with some similarities to the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, including the Cities of Los Altos Hills, Belmont and Avalon.

Mayor Wolowicz explained to Mr. Avery that each Council members would ask him a series of questions woven into their statements about what they were looking for in a recruiting firm and in the candidates for City Manager.

Councilman Stern asked Mr. Avery to cite an example of a private sector recruiting technique used by his company.

Mr. Avery explained that in the public sector, the job description for many top positions, such as Police Chief, is the same from city to city, but that in private sector, and especially in the high technology industry, there are no standard job descriptions for a given position. He noted that the job duties for most private sector executive positions are highly individualized to the specialized needs of the particular company. He indicated that Avery Associates used the same approach in recruiting for City Managers because every city is unique and has its own personality and unique characteristics.

Councilman Stern described the characteristics of the current Council as reflecting the profile of the community, which he described as a highly sophisticated and involved group. He speculated that this Council is unique compared to other city councils due to the member’s high level of civility and ability to work well together, despite divergences in opinion. He also felt that the community offers some of the most unique and challenging issues encountered anywhere in the state, specifically citing the issues associated with the various landslides in the community. He noted that while the composition of the City Council is changeable, the past City Managers have enjoyed a great deal of longevity and the staff has not typically become embroiled in the local politics. He indicated that the relationship between the current City Council and City Manager is very comfortable, but noted that the challenges facing the community are quite unique for a city of its size. He explained that the new City Manager needed to have a solid understanding of land use issues and litigation. Councilman Stern opined that the City Manager position in Rancho Palos Verdes was probably one of the most desirable in the state and he asked how Mr. Avery intended to market the position to get the best crop of applicants possible.

Mr. Avery said that the political atmosphere described by Councilman Stern would be a major selling point for the position. He indicated that serious candidates were looking for City Councils that worked well together; were highly professional; and were respectful of staff. He indicated that best candidates did not want to work for cities where there was a “toxic” political environment. He also noted that the City’s physical beauty was an asset that cannot be denied and would make the position highly attractive to many potential candidates. He explained that his firm would look for candidates that came from cities with similar attributes to Rancho Palos Verdes, pointing out that a candidate from a small town in the Central Valley may have difficultly adjusting to the high energy political environment and the types of issues facing the City. He also indicated that the Los Angeles housing market might be a barrier to some candidates coming from outside the area.

Mayor Wolowicz informed Mr. Avery that Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Petru might be an internal candidate for the City Manager position.

Mayor Pro Tem Long pointed out the City had recently acquired and later sold a house in the course of completing a major public works project and that one of the Council members had urged his colleagues at the time to retain ownership of the house in the event that it could be used as a residence for the City Manager. He noted that the new City Manager might not want to live in a City-owned house because it would reduce their salary and potentially their retirement benefits. He asked Mr. Avery if the City should consider providing some type of housing or subsidy to attract candidates.

Mr. Avery responded that housing is an issue that does need to be considered, but pointed out that it will be based on the individual needs of the next City Manager and the City Council will need to be flexible in this area.

Councilman Stern felt that the new City Manager was unlikely to want to live in a house provided by the City because he or she would want the benefits of home ownership, such as the opportunity to build equity or take advantage of tax benefits. He suggested that other options might have some value, such as offering the new City Manager a low interest loan to purchase a house or by providing some type of equity sharing arrangement.

Mayor Wolowicz indicated that he had spoken with several City Managers in the South Bay, including Palos Verdes Estates’ City Manager Jim Hendrickson, about the issue of housing and noted that Palos Verdes Estates provides a residence for its City Manager.

Mayor Pro Tem Long indicated that he appreciated the professionalism of the City’s senior staff. He described the majority turn over that has occurred on Council since Councilman Stern was elected in 1999, noting that one former Council member resigned before the end of his term and three were unseated during the 2001 and 2003 elections. He stated that the current City Manager managed the transition admirably and noted that Council values its staff as a whole. He described the City as being composed of well-to-do residents, but having a very poor tax base compared to other cities in the state of comparable size. He explained that the City tends to devote its resources to hiring excellent staff, rather than investing the money in elaborate facilities. He indicated that staff was there to help Council make well-informed decisions and to avoid making mistakes. He noted that the City might have up to three strong internal candidates. He asked Mr. Avery if the recruitment schedule was realistic, given the fact that the current City Manager will depart in mid-December 2006 and that Council wouldn’t select a firm until August 1, 2006.

Mr. Avery responded that, even with the holidays in November and December, he felt confident that the City could have a new City Manager by the first of the year.

Councilman Stern pointed out that Avery Associates proposal including a 16-week recruitment schedule.

Mayor Pro Tem Long asked Mr. Avery what would happen if the time schedule was not met and how the City should handle the gap in leadership. He also asked how Mr. Avery proposed to advertise the fact that Rancho Palos Verdes is a contract city with a relatively small staff, limited financial resources and complicated problems. He noted that he wanted to market the position as attractively, yet realistically, as possible.

In response to Mayor Pro Tem Long’s earlier reference to internal candidates, Mr. Avery indicated that any internal candidates would be treated that same as any other applicants. He indicated that it was extremely important for outside candidate to feel that the recruitment process was not “just for show” and that they had an equal chance of competing for the position, otherwise they would be discouraged from even applying. He indicated that it spoke very highly of the City if it did indeed have three internal candidates interested in the City Manager position. Regarding the issues of missing the recruitment schedule, Mr. Avery cautioned against appointing one of the internal candidates as Interim City Manager, which could discourage other applicants. He suggested tying to extend the current City Manager’s contract or working through the League of California Cities to find a retired City Manager willing to fill the position on a temporary basis until a permanent replacement can be found. Regarding the marketing of the position, Mr. Avery opined that the descriptions in the job brochure must be realistic and that the pluses and minuses of the job must be equally balanced. He indicated that many top city administrators do not want to work for a big bureaucracy and would prefer to work in community where they can be closely involved with the issues and noted that the position needed to be clearly marketed in this way. He reiterated that he was confident the schedule would not slip and that a qualified candidate could be found in the allotted amount of time.

Councilman Stern mentioned that the new City Manager would need to deal with such issues as the implementation of the City’s new solid waste contract, the construction of the new Terranea resort hotel project and a possible proposal for hotel units at the existing Trump National Golf Course development. He felt that these challenges were positive things that would attract candidates to apply for the position.

Mayor Pro Tem Long noted that the type of background that would best suit a City Manager in this community would be one strong in municipal finance, planning and public works.

Councilman Stern added that while the issues varies, a strong background in the application of municipal law would also be helpful. He asked Mr. Avery what kind of input he would seek from the City’s senior staff during the recruitment.

Mr. Avery responded that he recommended involving the senior staff in the process because they can provide valuable insights into what qualities the new City Manager should have, plus it makes them feel that Council values their opinions. He emphasized, however, that the new City Manager works for the City Council and it should be the Council that makes the final decision about hiring the next City Manager.

Councilman Stern noted that if Council decided to reject any input provided to it by the senior staff, Council should have a very good reason for rejecting their advice.

Mayor Pro Tem Long asked how Mr. Avery would handle input provide from an internal candidate.

Mr. Avery responded that Council can determine if it wants input from any internal candidates, but indicated that in his experience most internal candidates provide good, unbiased input to the process. Pursuing this further, he indicated that it is acceptable for the senior management to interview the top candidates, but stressed that they should not be asked to rank the candidates in order of preference.

Mayor Wolowicz asked Mr. Avery how he would ascertain from Council the qualities it was looking for in the new City Manager.

Mr. Avery indicated that he typically meets individually with each Council member, but noted that he could follow any procedure the Council chooses.

Mayor Wolowicz asked if any materials would be provided to the Council members in advance of the individual interviews.

Mr. Avery indicated that a list of bullet points could be provided to the Council members in advance to help them to gather their thoughts before the interview takes place.

Mayor Wolowicz asked if Avery Associated includes any type of personality test in the recruitment process to gain additional insight into the potential candidates.

Mr. Avery indicated that he saw some potential risk that requiring a personality test as part of the process may dissuade top qualified candidates that were not accustomed to this type of evaluation. He stated that he felt that the candidate’s important personality traits could be determined through the interview process and through the background checks that are performed. He suggested that, if at the end of the process, Council was still uncertain about a particular candidate, a personality test could be administered at that time.

Councilman Stern observed that it appeared rather atypical to administer these type of tests as part of executive public sector recruitments and expressed concern that requiring one here may generate a negative reaction from otherwise qualified applicants.

Mr. Avery confirmed that this type of test was highly unusual in local government recruiting.

Mayor Pro Tem Long stated that he had no objection to using any particular technique if another City Council member wanted it, provided it would not disrupt the process or unduly repel potential candidates. He stated that he was looking for the selected consultant to be flexible enough to provide data to a Council member if they asked for it in good faith.

In response to a question from Mayor Pro Tem Long, Mr. Avery indicated that his firm typically provided Council with a detailed written profile of each candidate, including reference interviews that are as close to verbatim as possible. He noted that the truth about a particular candidate could be read between the lines of what the reference says about the individual. He noted that he routinely prepared matrixes comparing the candidates’ qualifications when requested to do so by Council.

Mayor Wolowicz asked whether Avery and Associated could also provide Council with any advice and assistance on taking the interview and selection process and transforming it into the new City Manager’s first annual performance review, such as defining the criteria to evaluate whether the City Manager had met the Council’s selection criteria, demonstrated the proper skill sets, achieved the articulated goals, etc.

Mr. Avery responded that he has not been previously asked to do this, but saw the nexus between the two activities and felt that it would be a relatively short additional step to add to the contract if Council so desired. He noted that it would only apply to the new City Manager’s first performance evaluation because the basis for the criteria and goals would change over time.

Mayor Wolowicz noted that because Les Evans was already City Manager when all members of the current City Council were elected, the annual performance evaluations have been very informal.

Councilman Stern asked about the proper level of compensation and asked in Mr. Avery would provide Council with information about the current market. He noted that the City doesn’t pay particularly well compared to many other cities.

Mr. Avery indicated that he could provide Council with information on the salaries in equivalent cities and could even assist the City in the contract negotiations with the successful candidate.

Mayor Pro Tem noted that the contract would need to be tailored to the individual selected based on their circumstances.

Mr. Avery expressed his appreciation to Council for scheduling a second meeting to conduct interviews and indicated that he very much enjoyed the conversation.

Councilman Stern noted that Council would select the consulting firm at its next regular meeting on August 1st and informed Mr. Avery that Council meetings are webcast in real time on the City’s web site if he cared to watch the proceedings.

Mayor Wolowicz thanked Mr. Avery for his interest and participation in the interview process.




Mayor Wolowicz declared the meeting adjourned at 11:07 a.m.



City Clerk