One week after firing its city manager, the San Fernando City Council unanimously appointed Finance Director Nick Kimball to the position.
Kimball had previously served as city manager on an interim basis. The permanent appointment was announced at the council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Kimball was previously offered the position prior to the last search for a candidate, but was then reluctant to take the position full-time. However, he has now accepted with an agreement for a five-year contract at $185,000 per year, which is less than his predecessor Alex Meyerhoff was receiving before his termination, announced on Feb. 12.
“I just want to make sure everyone knows, the expectations are much different for this particular assignment,” Kimball said. “Before it was more to keep things afloat. The [new] expectations, I expect you to place on me for the permanent position are really to move us forward, not just keep it afloat.
“We’ll all work as a team to really take those next steps. So, obviously, we have plenty of work to do so. I appreciate your confidence in me and I appreciate the team I have behind me. And I think…the city will move forward the next few years.”
“I think you helped us in a way that very few other people could,” Mayor Joel Fajardo said to Kimball after the appointment was announced.
“Not only do you have the opportunity to be a city manager, but you are probably coming in as one of the best qualified city managers, if not, the best qualified city manager that we’ve had in a generation in San Fernando. So I feel very confident where the city is headed. I want to thank you, in spite of the many [other] opportunities out there, for giving a community like San Fernando a chance. It is not often that we get someone of your caliber.”
Another important aspect of the hiring was keeping the job title as “City Manager” rather than “City Administrator,” as it had been structured in other years. But there was a groundswell of protest growing about reverting back.
The difference between the two titles might seem minimal, since the job duties are exactly the same: both the manager and administrator positions oversee the city’s day-to-day functions and duties, leaving the city council to focus on city policy.
But in a city manager form of government, all department heads, including the police chief, report directly to the city manager. That means the city manager can hire and fire any of these positions. A city administrator, however, does not have that authority; department heads are hired, report to, and are fired by the city council.
It’s a small detail with a huge shift of political power.
“I have been coming to these council meetings since 2010, I have witnessed first hand the abuses that the city council did and the suffering that the city had because of that city council — the three-person majority that was thrown out by the recall commission, the abuses that took place,” said resident Michael Remenih, who also serves as a city commissioner
“Why are we even talking about this? Where is the problem? Why all of a sudden this is coming back up…. I don’t see the necessity for this.”
San Fernando police Sgt. Irwin Rosenberg, representing the city’s Police Officers Association, said that if the city moved forward with discussion the association would issue a letter of opposition.
“What we saw back in 2010, 12, and 13, particularly as members of the law enforcement in the city. it was a bad time for us under a city administrator form of government,” Rosenberg said. “It’s something we extremely fear as an organization.”
Councilmember Robert Gonzales also voiced clear objections to a change. “We’ve been there, we’ve done that,” he said. “Many years ago we saw the inability of the city council being able to run the city with a city administrator form of government. I lived it for at least a year here at City of San Fernando. It was complete chaos.”