July/August 2016 home page

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Sterling Staff Standards
Jeff Barnouw | Amphitheatre Drive

Although the City is lucky to experience little attrition in staffing, circumstances such as retirement or advancement elsewhere sometimes put us in the position of seeking replacements.

For example, two stalwarts of the City staff, Adam Birnbaum, Planning Manager, and Connie Smith-Ball, Deputy City Clerk, recently retired after 27 and 25 years respectively. Their tenure testified to our long-term stability: their departure set recruitment in motion.

Fine tuning the definitions of these positions and finding qualified candidates is a complex process, involving many, but is ultimately the responsibility of City Manager Scott Huth.

Huth took time to explain his thinking on recruitment in general and in particular going forward. While in transition positions can be expanded or combined, but most are institutionalized, fixed by their definition. At the same time this means that one has to look for flexibility and adaptability in candidates. Given the nature and size of the City staff, Huth says, particular professional capabilities (like IT ability), which can be learned after hiring, are less crucial than the ability to work well with the public.

Nonetheless, when an opening is created by retirement or advancement, the position is defined by a core function which guides the search. First, the job description with determined level is advertised, applications are received (in some cases from all over the country) and vetted by a process which involves outside as well as City expertise in evaluation. Huth and Kathy Garcia (Director of Planning and Community Development) can be involved from the start. Once the field is narrowed to 3 or 4 candidates, internal review takes over, also involving the heads of appropriate City departments (Administrative Services, Community Services, Engineering, Finance, Fire, Planning, Public Works, and sometimes the Sheriff’s Department.)

Internal screening is overseen by the recently hired Administrative Services Director Ashley Jones, who is also acting as City Clerk. Because Adam Birnbaum gave the City ample advance warning, it did not take long to find his successor, Tracy Elliot-Yawn, Del Mar Planning Manager since May. Huth emphasized that Birnbaum had developed many facets during his long involvement with the City that could not be replaced, but that the search was focused by the institutionalized job description.

Several months ago Huth and Garcia went to the City with a request for a new position in Planning because of the overload of projects the City has taken on. That selection is already at the stage of internal review and may be news shortly after this article appears. The next issue will also begin a series of profiles of new members of the City staff, starting with Elliot-Yawn and Jones.





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