CHICO >> City Manager Brian Nakamura will be leaving the city of Chico to take the top spot in the city of Rancho Cordova, city officials confirmed Friday.
Nakamura is expected to have his employment agreement with Rancho Cordova approved at its Monday council meeting and assume his new role July 1. He has been with the city of Chico since September 2012, after previously working as the city manager in Hemet.
He said at the time of his hiring at age 47 that he expected to finish out his years of public service in Chico. He did not return calls Friday by deadline.
Nakamura has been responsible for overseeing the restructuring of the city government, as approved by the City Council, to address a multimillion-dollar deficit. Under his leadership, the city has reduced its number of department heads from 12 to five, implemented two rounds of layoffs and reimbursed $13.1 million in deficits in the private development and capital improvement projects funds in order to address the city”s financial imbalances.
Mayor Scott Gruendl called the departure “bittersweet,” saying he has appreciated the work Nakamura has done and decisions he made that predecessors would not. Of all four city managers Gruendl has worked with, he said Nakamura has been the most representative of council and followed its instructions best.
“He made hard decisions, he put together a good team and now essentially he falls on his sword for the community and the organization,” Gruendl said.
While unfortunate, the city manager”s departure will help the city move forward, Gruendl said.
“The individual who had to do that hard stuff bows out of the picture and I think that will be really good for both the organization and the community for a healing standpoint,” he said.
Gruendl was told by Nakamura that the team he built, including assistant City Manager Mark Orme and Administrative Services Director Chris Constantin, will stay, which he said is fortunate.
“There has to be this sacrificial lamb,” he said. “I know he really perceived that as part of his role.”
Resistance and the reaction to changes at the city have not been kind to Nakmaura, Gruendl said. It was a topic they addressed often during their weekly meetings, in strategizing how to get beyond the hostility and negativity.
“It”s one thing I observed that he realized was more difficult to overcome than he anticipated,” he said. “The financial condition of the city turned out to be worse and the resistance to change within the organization and on behalf of the community was worse.”
Gruendl said he will always respect Nakamura for the difficult decisions he made.
“Being right close to the epicenter of all that, he did what needed to be done,” he said. “As harmful as it was to individuals within the organization, it put the organization in a position where it could move forward. I very much doubt we would be anywhere near overcoming our financial situation without Brian.”
Gruendl learned of Nakamura”s decision Wednesday. The plan was to notify the council Tuesday and Gruendl had it placed on the agenda as a closed-session “performance review.” After Rancho Cordova notified Nakamura it was sending out a press release Friday, Gruendl and the city manager scrambled to tell councilors and department heads first.
Councilor Mark Sorensen was not surprised by the news, though he had hoped Nakamura would stay on.
“He”s had an incredibly brutal and challenging two years,” he said. “He”s done a fantastic job really transforming an organization.”
Sorensen, who has repeatedly said it was necessary to bring in an outsider to guide the city after the retirement of Dave Burkland in 2012, described Nakamura as a “breath of fresh air,” for the candor and honesty with which he approached so many subjects.
“It”s going to be Chico”s loss just for his level of knowledge and experience and intelligence,” he said.
Gruendl said it will be up to the council Tuesday to decide how to address the city manager position in the interim. After Nakamura”s departure, the city will need to focus on ongoing recovery and dealing with its debts.
“We have to make sure the organization moves forward and make sure it doesn”t go back to a place folks miss or want to return to,” Gruendl said. “We have to deal with our reality so we are better off for the future.”
Nakamura is succeeding Rancho Cordova”s founding city manager, Ted Gaebler, who retired in February. The city of Rancho Cordova reports his appointment comes after a recruitment and selection process that garnered 50 candidates from around the nation.
“We are very excited to welcome Brian as our next city manager, to lead Rancho Cordova into our next decade,” said Rancho Cordova Mayor Dan Skoglund in a statement. “He was unanimously selected by the council members, and we are confident that he will be a great asset to the citizens of Rancho Cordova. The council is looking forward to partnering with Brian to take our organization to new heights.”
According to the proposed employment contract, he will have a base monthly salary of $19,298, compared to $18,083 for the city of Chico.
The city of Rancho Cordova was incorporated in 2003 and has a population of 67,839. The city has 69 employees and operates under a $26.6 million annual budget, which includes contracting out police services to the Sacramento County Sheriff”s Department. Fire services are handled separately by the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District
The city of Chico has about 330 employees and a $43.4 million annual budget for 2013-14.
Contact reporter Ashley Gebb at 896-7768.