Trackdown ManagementTrackdown Management’s City Manager Newsletter: Volume No. 16: Issue No. 2

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

Retired City Manager Dr. Frank I. Benest is on the cover of the January 2023 issue of PM magazine. Frank currently provides consultant and trainer services to public agencies. He also serves as the ICMA Liaison for the Next Generation Initiatives. Frank also teaches at Stanford University. He served as city manager in Colton (1986-1989), Brea (1989-2000) and Palo Alto (2000-2008). Frank is an ICMA Credentialed Manager. He earned a BA from Yale University, MPA from California State University, and a Doctorate in education from Brigham Young University. In 2005 Frank received a 35-year ICMA Service Award.

Raymond R. Cruz, city manager for the City of Santa Fe Springs, has retired at the end of last year (2022). Ray began his public service career as an administrative intern in the City of Riverside. Ray was a Coro Fellow in 1985-1986. After a few months with the San Francisco office of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ray went to work as the assistant to the city manager in the City of Glendale. Ray worked in Glendale for nearly 14 and a half years before he took the director of Community Services position in the City of Carson for the next nearly 13-years (2001-2013). Ray started his tenure as a city manager in the City of Rolling Hills in November 2013. In March 2018 Ray became the sixth city manager in Santa Fe Springs history. Ray earned a BA from the University of California, Riverside and an MPA from the University of Southern California (USC).

San Ramon City Manager Joe Gorton is retiring this month (January 2023). He worked for the city about 16- years, the last six as city manager. He worked in various positions with the Sheriff’s Department of the County of Contra Costa from May 1988 to November 2006. Joe joined the San Ramon police department as a captain in November 2006. He served as the chief of police from November 2013 to January 2017, and he became city manager in January 2017. Joe earned an AA degree from Butte College, and a BA and MS in organizational development from the University of San Francisco. In 2022 he received a 30-year ICMA Service Award.

San Rafael City Manager Jim Schutz will retire this summer 2023 after 19-years with the city and began his tenure as city manager in 2015. Assistant City Manager Cristine Alilovich has said that she will apply for the position. Jim began his career in June 1989 as a planning technician in the City of Santa Barbara. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in 1990-1992. Jim worked for Contra Costa County, the cities of Pinole and San Jose and he returned to the City of Pinole as assistant city manager (2004-2006). Jim joined the San Rafael city staff as Assistant City Manager in January 2007. He was appointed city manager in August 2015.

Vency Woo is a management analyst with the City of Los Altos. Vency worked in the private sector in 1998 and then as a GIS technician for Contra Costa County starting in January 2000. She joined the city staff in Milpitas as a GIS/CAD technician and worked as an engineering aide there until July 2012 when she was hired by Los Altos as an engineering technician in July 2018. In July 2022, Vency was appointed to her management analyst position. She earned a BA in geography from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Dr. Jeffrey V. Smith, M.D., J.D., the Santa Clara County executive officer, announced his retirement effective July 1, 2023. He has served the county as executive officer for the past 13-years, appointed in September 2009. He earned an M.D. from the University of Southern California (USC), School of Medicine and a Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the California State Bar. Dr. Smith has served as a member of the board of supervisors in Contra Costa County and as a member of the City of Martinez city council.

Dunia Noel is the assistant executive officer for the Santa Clara Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). Dunia earned a BS from the University of California, Davis and a Master’s degree in city and urban, community and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley. Before joining the LAFCO staff, Dunia worked as a planner in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties. She has been with LAFCO since October 2001.

Following the 23-year La Verne city manager tenure of City Manager Martin Lomeli, retired in 2010, City Manager Bob Russi retired in August 2022. Bob joined the La Verne city staff in 2001 and served as the assistant to the city manager and later assistant city manager. Bob previously worked for the City of Walnut in Parks and Recreation and in the City Manager’s office. He was hired in Walnut in 1990. Former Fullerton City Manager and Laguna Beach Assistant City Manager Ken Domer is the current city manager for the City of La Verne. He took over from Interim City Manager Jesse Duff, a highly thought of veteran retired city manager.

Santa Ana took Gerry Serrano’s full-time paid union President job away and will require him to spend half his time doing police work. Gerry has many lawsuits against the City of Santa Ana stemmed from his full-time paid union job. It turned out that getting paid to not do police work backfired on him as it impacts his pension. He has been trying to compel the City of Santa Ana to backfill his pension.

Sonoma is recruiting for a new city manager. A starting annual salary on $215,900 has been established. Round one interviews will be taking place virtually via Zoom on March 3, 2023. Round two interviews are schedule for in-person meetings on March 16, 2023. Those interested should submit a resumé and cover letter by submitted by February 2, 2023.

Ventura Assistant City Manager Akbar Alikhan is serving as Acting City Manager following the separation agreement approved with City Manager Alex McIntyre. The new acting city manager is working with Deputy City Manager Barry Fisher, City Clerk Michael B. MacDonald and Public Information Officer Heather Sumagaysay. Akbar worked as a Public Works Analyst in the City of Thousand Oaks (2010-2014) before he became a consultant. In June 2017 he became the General Manager of the Channel Islands Beach Community Services District. He was hired in June 2019 as the Assistant City Manager in Ventura. He earned a BS and MPA from Cornell University.


Award-winning speaker, author and coach Heather Hansen O’Neill will be the Keynote speaker at the February 22-24 “Local Government Reimagined Conference” in Oklahoma City.

Former MMANC President (2000-2001), former Hanford City Manager and former CCMF Board Member Hilary Straus is the general manager of the Citrus Heights Water District.

Lake Forest Deputy City Manager Brett Channing serves as the vice chair and governance committee chair for the board of directors of the Institute for Local Government.

Angelique Gaeta, assistant city manager in the City of Campbell, worked in Half Moon Bay and San Jose, and earned a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and a J.D. from Santa Clara University, School of Law.

Neelima Palacherla is the executive officer of the Santa Clara Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) and Dunia Noel is the Assistant Executive Officer.

Shelly Wishner, who has earned a BA and MA in communication and media studies, is a part-time public information assistant for the City of Claremont.

Assistant to the City Manager John Stefanski of the City of Dublin is the 2023 president of the Municipal Management Association of Northern California (MMANC).

Yorba Linda Planning Manager Nate Farnsworth previously worked in planning for the City of Rancho Santa Margarita.

Nadine Levin-Abrams retired as the Mountain View assistant city manager in June 2010 after more than 20-years with the city and continues to serve as an adjunct faculty member for the University of San Francisco.

Hillsborough Public Works Director Martha DeBry, who has worked for the city nearly 27-years, is a past recipient of the John H. Nail Memorial Award presented by the City Managers’ Department of the League of California Cities.

Ron Bow has served as the city manager for the City of Monterey Park since August 2017, and he was previously the public works director and assistant city manager.

David Maistros has served as the city manager for the City of Avalon since January 2022 following his work for the City of Twinsburg, Ohio.