Trackdown ManagementTrackdown Management’s City Manager Newsletter: Volume No. 15: Issue No. 20

For over 13 years, Jack Simpson’s Trackdown Management has published the City Manager Newsletter. Jack is a retired city manager and former Willdan executive. His newsletter content weaves together the personal side of the profession in California and helps keep the city manager community, especially retired city managers, connected with each other.

Picking Up the Pieces

El Centro City Manager Marcela Piedra has been selected to serve as the next Rohnert Park City Manager. She is replacing retiring City Manager Darrin Jenkins. Marcela served as the El Centro Deputy City Manager (2016-2018) prior to her start as City Manager in January 2018. Marcela earned an MBA from the University of Phoenix.

La Cañada Flintridge City Manager Mark Alexander will retire next spring. Mark joined the city staff in 1988 as an Administrative Assistant. He was appointed to the La Cañada Flintridge City Manager position in June 2003. Mark, who is closing out a 44-year career in local government, started his municipal government professional management service as an intern in the City of San Dimas. Prior to landing with La Cañada Flintridge, Mark held positions with the cities of Glendora and Simi Valley. Mark serves on the USC Executive Education Board of Directors and the USC Sol Price City/County Management Fellowship Advisory Committee. Mark earned a BA from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; an MPA from the University of Southern California (USC); and a Juris Doctorate from Southwestern Law School.

City Manager Pamela Wu announced that Rachelle Sander is the new Parks and Recreation Director in the City of Cupertino. Rachelle has worked for the City for more than 20 years. She started as a part-time Recreation Leader in 2001. She was hired full-time in 2005. Rachelle earned a BA in recreation management from San Diego State University.

South Pasadena has been looking for a new Finance Director for 2-years. The latest recruitment ended when the successful candidate rejected the offer and decided to stay when her current City of Pico Rivera. Retired South Pasadena Assistant Finance Director Maida Alcantara will fill the position on a part-time basis. Maida is the third interim director since the resignation of Karen Aceves in August 2020.

Berkeley Deputy City Manager Paul Buddenhagen is the new City Manager for the City of Emeryville. Paul also served as the Berkeley Director of Health, Housing and Community Services, and 18- years with Contra Costa County in the Employment and Human Services Department. Paul will be officially sworn in and take office on January 17, 2023. He earned a BA in psychology from Macalester College in Minnesota and a Master’s degree in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley.

Stepping out of his ability to impact the organization, Vista City Manager Patrick Johnson washed his hands of the city and resigned after nearly 11 years in the position. His resignation is due to his opposition to a new policy that diminishes the city manager’s authority with regard to the hiring process. Pat is a 24-year veteran of the Vista city staff. Assistant City Manager Amanda Lee is serving as the Acting City Manager. The new hiring policy includes a politically appointed review group. It has been recently suggested that it appears it will be more about who you know than what you know if you wish to work for the City of Vista.

Pacific Grove City Manager Ben Harvey filed a harassment complaint in January regarding a member of the City Council. The city manager’s allegations against Council Member Luke Coletti have been sustained by Special Counsel. Ben has served as the Pacific Grove City Manager since April 2016 and worked as Interim City Manager from January to April in 2016. Ben served earlier as the Avalon City Manager (2013-2015). He previously worked in public affairs for the Southern California Edison Co. (2006-2013), private sector positions, and positions with Newport Beach (1997-1999) and the City of Bellflower (1992-1997).

Blythe Interim City Manager Mallory Crecelius said that the Riverside County Grand Jury’s report that Blythe is a “dying” city due to financial hardship and loss of business is in error. The Grand Jury did not meet with city officials to get factual information. Mallory said, “…the City could have provided factual information to include in their report. The Grand Jury’s failure to meet with the City resulted in a published report full of inaccurate information that caused damage to the character of the City.”

Solano County officially opened a reconfiguring of the ramps at the Interstate-80, I-680 and State Route 12 with a celebratory ribbon-cutting. This improves travel access between Vallejo and Napa. Solano Transportation Director Daryl Halls said that he began work on the environmental aspects of the project 15 years ago.

Artesia’s new City Manager Aldo E. Schindler has worked as the Moreno Valley Assistant City Manager and previously served as the Deputy City Manager in the City of Downey. Aldo started in Moreno Valley in May 2022. He began his public service career as a Redevelopment Project Officer in the City of Long Beach (2000-2009). He worked as the Director of Community Development in Bell Gardens (2009-2011) and Whittier (2011-2014). He joined the Downey city staff as Director of Community Development in April 2014. Aldo was made Deputy City Manager in April 2020. He earned a BA from San Diego State University and an MPA from California State University, Long Beach. Aldo is an avid mountain biker.

Downey Assistant City Manager John Oskoui retired while he was on administrative leave. John served as Assistant City Manager since 2012. Interim City Manager Mark Scott appointed Vaniah De Rojas to be the Interim Assistant City Manager position. John served as the Downey Public Works Director starting in 2010. John earned a BS in civil engineering from the University of North Carolina and an MS in structural engineering from California State University, Fullerton.

Fran Mancia, Chair of the CCMF Scholarship Committee, was the one to announce the three winners of the 2022 Wes McClure Scholarships. The winners are Jessica Slawson, San Diego State University; Haley Arata, University of Southern California (USC); and Samantha Johnson, University of Southern California (USC).

Napa City Manager Steve Potter has hired a new member of his executive team. Former Town of Moraga Parks and Recreation Director Breyana Brandt is the new Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Napa. Breyana previously worked as Assistant Recreation and Human Services Director for the City of San Leandro. She earned a BA and MPA from San Francisco State University.

Former Palm Springs City Manager Justin Clifton started in the city in April 2021. He resigned in September 2022. After 15- months in Palm Springs, it is believed that Justin taking a position in the private sector. Teresa Gallavan has been named Interim City Manager. Justin replaced City Manager Dr. David H. Ready, Ph.D., who served as the Palm Springs City Manager for nearly 21 years after serving as the Chief Administrative Officer in Flint, Michigan (1992-2000). David was awarded the Wes McClure City Manager’s Award of Distinction from the League of California Cities.

Veteran Martinez city employee Michael Chandler will be taking City Manager Eric Figueroa’s position effective January 4, 2023. Mike has been serving as Acting City Manager while Eric is on leave. Mike has worked for the city for more than two decades. He was the Assistant City Manager in addition to various other posts since joining the City of Martinez following service in the Navy.

Fairfield Interim City Manager David Gassaway selected John Furtado as the City’s Finance Director. He started his new duties in July 2022. John previously served as the Finance Director in the City of Los Altos. He earned a BBA from the University of Goa, and a Master’s degree in finance from Assam Dom Bosco University. John is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Grover Beach City Manager Matthew Bronson since June 2016, worked in the City of Charlotte from 1999 to 2003. He came to California in December 2003 and joined the staff of the County of Marin as an Administrative Analyst. He worked his way up in the county organization to Assistant to the County Administrator in October 2009. In May 2010 he was hired as the Assistant City Manager in the City of San Mateo. Matt earned a BS in environmental policy analysis and planning from the University of California, Davis and an MPA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He also completed the graduate senior executive institute at the University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center of Public Service.


Grover Beach Parks and Recreation Director Kathy Petker has been with the city for nearly 23 years.

Kristin Eriksson, who earned a Juris Doctor in public interest law from the Hastings College of the Law at the University of California, is the Deputy City Manager in the City of Grover Beach.

Nishil Bali is the Finance Director in the City of Claremont and previously worked as the Rohnert Park Finance Director in Sonoma County.