CSD hires interim general manager
The El Dorado Hills Community Services District Board of Directors named Richard J. Ramirez as interim general manager in a 4-1 vote, during a special meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3, with Director Bill Vandegrift opposing.
Board President Guy Gertsch said Ramirez will evaluate and manage all district operations while the board launches a national search for a permanent general manager.
Ramirez’s resumé, which Gertsch circulated before the meeting, touts a 36-year history of California public sector experience and a long list of honors, awards and memberships in an alphabet soup of city management organizations.
He most recently served as city manager for the new city of American Canyon in Napa Valley. He’s also held the post in Lincoln, Paso Robles and Hemet, with a six-year stint as assistant city manager for the city of Sacramento from 2000 to 2006.
Ramirez shows up for work in El Dorado Hills on Jan. 9 but, according to Gertsch, starts immediately. He will earn $11,787 per month for up to five months, with no benefits. After the meeting Ramirez said he looks forward to working “for the board, for the community and with the staff.”
Several residents and CSD employees addressed the board during the meeting, criticizing the termination of former General Manager John Skeel and questioning the wisdom of hiring an interim GM at this juncture.
Yvonne Griffin, who chairs the El Dorado Hills Senior Council, asked the board members rhetorically if they really believed that bringing in a “total stranger to this community,” albeit one with a strong resumé, was best for the district.
Griffin recalled a Dec. 13 “clear the air” meeting, where employees told their board members they didn’t think an interim GM was necessary, and encouraged the board to put their efforts into seeking a replacement for Skeel, whose contract was terminated on Dec. 8.
“You made a genuine effort to meet with us, called us the face of the CSD and wanted our input,” she said. “The employees told you what they wanted and you ignored them.”
Director Tony Rogozinski told Griffin that the board struggled with the decision, but in the end factored in the entirety of the feedback they’d received throughout the year, including comments that the district lacked leadership. “You told us that communication was terrible,” he said. “We did what we think is best for the district going forward.”
Crown Village resident Evelyn Weick didn’t like the fact that the board left the position vacant until Skeel was dismissed. She considers the interim GM hiring “a waste of public money,” she said, and encouraged the board to “leave the acting as acting, because they were all you wanted while you played around with John Skeel’s life.”
Assistant General Manager Sandi Kukkola was the acting GM in question. Afterward she was visibly relieved the board had hired Ramirez, admitting, “The job was bigger than me, especially without the resources.”
The district had key department management vacancies throughout 2011 and into 2012.
During the meeting Gertsch explained that Ramirez was one of several candidates suggested by the International City/County Management Association, and that his “extensive experience … rose to the top.”
As assistant city manager in Sacramento, Ramirez was in charge of five departments: Police, Fire, Neighborhood services, Parks / Recreation / Convention and Leisure Services, according to his resumé. He also did spot duty as city manager and filled in as acting Parks and Recreation Director for an entire year.
All told, Ramirez supervised more than 2,700 people in Sacramento, and was responsible for an operating budget of $360 million, with another $100 million in capital improvements, according to his resumé.
Ramirez lives in Sacramento with his wife Diane. He joked that since his retirement, his primary job has been chauffeur for his 4-year old granddaughter, who suddenly has a promising acting career.
Between casting calls Ramirez formed a clearinghouse for interim public sector managers. “Interims are kind of catch as catch can,” he said. “It’s mostly a way to identify opportunities for people who I know and trust.”
He said he’s not currently charging any finders fee, but going forward, “You never know.”
Ramirez also said he’s not interested in a long-term position in El Dorado Hills.
“There’s a tremendous amount of talent out there that can take this organization to the next level,” he said. “What I’m doing here is to help make that transition happen.”
In a followup email, Ramirez said that his $11,787 monthly compensation, which does not include any benefits, is actually 20 percent less, overall, than Skeel was making. Skeel’s salary was $126,500 per year plus benefits.
Reached by phone on Wednesday, Vandegrift questioned making the GM search national, citing ample talent in the immediate community and, failing that, in the tri-county region.
His opposition to the interim GM hiring was the cost, he said.
“We should know what our problems are by now… and we should be able to get them diagnosed without spending an additional $11,000 to $12,000 a month,” Vandegrift said. “I’m trying to get ball fields built and restrooms put in.”
Vandegrift added that he wished Ramirez well. “He seems very knowledgeable, and if he can help resolve some of the conflict here, then bravo.”