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Q&A With Dan Rich, MV's New City Manager (Part 2)

Rich recognizes the need for change, but acknowledges that it's all in how its managed.

On May 27, 2011 the City of Mountain View announced that it had hired Dan Rich as its new city manager to replace Kevin Duggan, who after 20 years retired on Apr. 1, 2011.

Dan Rich, who had been with the city of Campbell since 2005, began his job in Mountain View on July 25 where he will now be responsible for the provision of services to a city of 74,066 people compared with Campbell's 39,349.

Mountain View Patch sat down with Dan Rich for 30 minutes on the morning of Monday, Aug. 8 at the to talk about his transition from Campbell. Rich ordered a pomegranate raspberry tea–he doesn't drink coffee, he explained–and a buttered croissant, which he broke off into pieces and ate between questions.

Yesterday we published . Here's the second of three parts:

Mountain View Patch: You may have been, or are currently being briefed, on the City’s General Plan and some of the goals the city has for itself. … As you speak to department heads and hear some of their needs, what else do you think you can add to the City of Mountain View?

Rich: The update is a critical process. Being City Manager is not necessarily about my vision and what I want. It’s want the community envisions. I don’t come in with any preconceived notions of ‘we have to do x, y or z.’ The General Plan process is obviously well, well underway and getting closer to conclusion. So, I’ll be involved in the final steps, but I don’t really feel like shaping it. Which is fine. It’s the community shaping and having set the vision for the next 20 years and I can’t say I’m up to speed on all the details of it.

Obviously, issue along the North Bayshore area will be important. Fundamentally, all the communities in this area face similar types of issues. The pressure between housing, and the need for more housing, versus protecting your neighborhood and keeping the quality of life we have and like; producing jobs but not choking the community with too much traffic. It’s all those balancing acts that we need to focus on. Change is inevitable; the question is how do you manage change to do it wisely, deliberately and in a way that is in the best interest of the community.

We got a lot of great neighborhoods, strong neighborhood associations. I want to work with them, partner with them, to make sure their needs and interests are being attended to.

Rich: I think that fiscal conservatism is in the DNA of all City Managers. (Chuckled) That’s the way we are trained or we are born. It’s genetic.

So yes. I believe, fundamentally, if we don’t have a sound budget we can’t have a sound community. You can be pennywise or foolish. If you get a rush of money one year and spend it all, in the long-term commitments you’ll be down in a hole. I will always be cautious about that.

Mountain View is in reasonably good shape fiscally, in large part due to Kevin [Duggan] and the Finance team and the Council’s leadership in terms of being conservative and not going on a spending spree during the good years. That’s prevented some of the major problems that other communities have had. But the reality is, it’s going to continue to be tight fiscally, certainly for the foreseeable future. I don’t think anyone ever expected this recession to be as bad, as deep, as long and as slow to recover as we are experiencing. So cost containment will continue to be an issue in how we spend out money.

Having said that, we are in the people business. We provide services and takes people to provide services. So while we certainly want to keep our costs down, we certainly want to treat our people well, treat them fairly, give them reasonable salaries for the work they do and the services they provide to the community. So again, it’s a balance act of treating people well, but watching our dollars and cents.

Patch: People are important in the provision of services to a community, but if the situation changes and you have to think of areas to cut, what are essential services to you?

Rich: I think it’s premature to answer a question like that. I don’t think we are in that kind of shape where we are actively looking to cut services. I think it’s more about being wise with the dollars with have and be careful not creating obligations that we can’t maintain in the future. We are not in a cutback mode but a conservatism mode. But if we had to get to that, where we have to seriously debate service priorities that’s Council’s prerogative to determine with input from the community of course.

Two weeks into the job, I can’t say what the community’s priorities are. But I really don’t think we are facing those kinds of decisions right now based on the conservative path and the budget we have.

Patch: Did you meet with Duggan? What kind of advice did he give you?

Rich: Yes, I’ve known Kevin for a long time.

Patch: He used to be at Campbell.

Rich: Yes, we obviously didn’t overlap. I knew him when I was in Sunnyvale. When I applied for the Campbell job, six or seven years ago, I talked to him about his experience and he’s been helpful to me over many, many years. His advice was, it wasn’t advice, but more background on the organization and what a wonderful place it is. He’s very fond of the employees and the team that’s in place right now.

One piece of advice that he gave me that stuck with me was ‘let democracy work.’ Sometimes we think we have all the answers, that there’s only one-way to do it. That’s one phrase that sticks in my mind. It may not be the way you want it, but that’s what the citizen’s want, what the voter’s, the Council; that’s what democracy is.

Patch: What advice would you have for the incoming City Manager in Campbell?

Rich: I have a great affection for Campbell. It’s a wonderful community. Some people, city managers, always want to go to the bigger, better, next city. I was not looking to leave Campbell. It was a great job, a great community. I enjoyed it. But this was to me a once in a lifetime opportunity. Kevin had been here 20 years and who knows if it would ever open up again.

My advice to the Campbell City Manager is get to know the community, get to know the staff, trust them. It’s a wonderful community. People love being in Campbell. They are very supportive. We benefited from a lot of support from the Council and the residents, so to maintain that level of trust, communication and support from the community.

Check back tomorrow, Wednesday, Aug. 17 for Part Three, and learn some fun facts about City Manager Rich.

Ellen Wheeler August 16, 2011 at 03:20 PM
THANK YOU for providing us readers this highly useful background information on our new city manager. I truly believe this was a public service. I look forward to the "fun facts" portion of this series.

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