Trackdown ManagementTrackdown Management’s City Manager Newsletter: Volume No. 16: Issue No. 6

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

Congratulations to retired City Manager Dr. Frank Benest! Frank, who retired as the Palo Alto city manager in August 2008, was recognized at the 2023 League of California Cities City Managers’ Department meeting for the publication of the 100th issue of ICMA Career Compass. The 100th article appeared in the January 2023 issue of PM Magazine. Frank previously served as city manager in Brea (1989- 2000) and Colton (1986-1989). He currently serves as an ICMA senior advisor for the Next Generation Initiative, and he operates Frank Benest Consulting.

Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Striplin, president of the California City Management Foundation, announced the recipients of the group’s 2023 awards at the City Managers’ Department of the League of California Cities meeting in Carlsbad last month. The 2023 City Manager of the Year is Sacramento City Manager Howard Chan, and the 2023 Corporate Sponsor of the Year is Climatec, who is also a sponsor of the City Manager Newsletter by Trackdown.

It was reported that Hollister City Manager Brett Miller has left office and Assistant City Manager David Mirrione closed out a recent meeting in the City Manager’s seat. It is unknown at this time whether Brett was dismissed or if he resigned. After working as a management analyst in Butte County (2005-2009), Brett joined the Hollister city staff as an accounting manager in February 2009. He has worked himself up in the organization and served as administrative services director and assistant city manager (2014-2019). Brett became the Hollister interim city manager in November 2019 and began his city manager tenure in September 2020.

Atascadero City Manager Rachelle Rickard will retire in July after serving 10 years as city manager. She began her professional career with positions at two different audit firms. She first joined the city staff in 1997 as an accountant. In 1998, Rachelle was promoted to serve as the director of administrative services. She was appointed Atascadero city manager starting in July 2013, following City Manager Wade G. McKinney, who left to become city manager in Indian Wells. Rachelle earned a BS from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Garden Grove named Lisa L. Kim to be the City’s new city manager. Born in Hong Kong and raised in London, England Lisa has been serving as the Garden Grove assistant city manager and community and economic development director. She has worked for Garden Grove since 2016. Lisa previously worked in community and economic development with the cities of Pomona, West Covina and Orange. Lisa worked for the City of Orange for 16 years and left there in March 2016 when she was serving as the economic development manager. She earned a BA in urban and regional planning from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and an MPA from Brandman University. Lisa is a past president of the Planning Directors Association of Orange County (PDAOC).

Port Hueneme interim city manager is Community Development Director Tony Stewart. Tony will serve in the position until a replacement is found for former City Manager Brad “Brick” Conners. Brick’s employment agreement expired on February 16. Tony joined the Port Hueneme city staff as city manager is February 2020. Prior to Port Hueneme Brick was a parenting and leadership consultant, teacher and speaker. He earned a BS from the United State Naval Academy, an MBA from California Lutheran University and an MA in national security & strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College. He served in the United States Navy starting in December 1995 after graduating from the academy. When he separated from for Navy he was the commanding officer for Naval Base Ventura County (2005-2009).

Milpitas City Manager Steven G. McHarris has become the third Milpitas city manager in to be dismissed since 2017. It is reported that morale at city hall is an all-time high under Steve’s leadership. Steve was the community & economic development director for the City of Soledad starting in December 2008. In 2012 he went to work in the Planning & Neighborhood Services Department in Milpitas. He went to the City of San José in May 2015 as the planning official. Steve returned to Milpitas in June 2018 as deputy city manager and in June 2019 he started as the Milpitas city manager. Steve earned a BA from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and an MPA from California State University, Fullerton. He completed the Senior Executives in State & Local Government program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Executive Education.

Long Beach City Manager Tom Modica has worked for the city since 2002 when he started as a management assistant. He worked in several positions and was appointed assistant city manager in 2014. Tom was appointed acting city manager in September 2019 following the retirement of City Manager Pat West. Tom became city manager in April 2020. He earned an MPA from the University of Arizona. Tom has participated at the Southern California “Proof of Life” program.

Sara Lillevand, the city administrator in the City of Piedmont starting in July 2019, has announced that she will retire in the spring of 2023. She will have worked four years as city administrator and five years as the Piedmont recreation director. Prior to joining the city staff, Sara served 23 years in intercollegiate athletics as a basketball coach, kinesiology instructor and athletic administrator. She served at California State University, East Bay. Sara will remain in her position as Piedmont city administrator until a successor takes office. Antioch Assistant City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore has been selected to be Sara’s successor. Rosanna came to Antioch in September 2020 after working nine years as city manager for the City of Brawley. She will start in Piedmont April 6.

Santa Clara has hired San Bruno City Manager Jovan D. Grogan as their next city manager. He worked for the cities of Berkeley and Concord before becoming the San Bruno City Manager in 2018. He earned a BS and a Master of Regional Planning from Cornell University.

Since February 2023, former Tripepi Smith Business Analyst Claire Torza is a new education project manager for the Association of Governmental Risk Pools (AGRiP). Claire earned a BA in philosophy, politics and economics from Claremont McKenna College, and she attended classes abroad at the University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia. Claire is an example of the high-quality individuals on the Tripepi Smith professional team. Good people are in demand. We will miss working with Claire but wish her well in her new adventure.

Brian King and Pete Carmichael were named assistant city managers for the City of Irvine. City Manager Oliver C. Chi made the appointments. Brian is the former deputy director of human resources and Pete is a former Great Park executive director. The two new assistant city managers join Assistant City Manager Michelle Grettenberg. Brian has been with the Irvine city staff for 26 years. Pete joined the city staff eight years ago. Michelle is an 18 year veteran with the Irvine city staff.

Merced City Manager Stephanie Dietz announced that she will resign effect in November of this year. Stephanie will leave after nearly seven years of service. Bob Murray & Associates have been retained to conduct an executive search for a new city manager. Stephanie was appointed assistant city manager in November 2016. She previously served for 10 years on the Merced County staff as a management analyst and three years with UC Merced. Stephanie came to the City with then City Manager Steve Carrigan.

With more than 20 years of experience in government relations, technology, communications, technology and marketing, Tripepi Smith President Ryder Todd Smith continues to invest in the understanding and improvement of local government. Ryder is the current president of the Rose Institute of State and Local Government. The Institute and the California City Management Foundation (CCMF) are conducting an in-depth study of California city management. A survey has been sent to every California city manager. Please contribution to this effort to learn more about the city management community by participating.

Starting in January 2022, Maraskeshia Smith began her tenure as the city manager for the City of Santa Rosa. She worked for the City of Cincinnati, Ohio for more than nine years before leaving her director of public services position to become assistant city administrator in Oakland in July 2018. After Maraskeshia served nearly two years as deputy city manager in the City of Stockton (May 2020- December 2021), she took the Santa Rosa city manager position. She earned a BS from the University of Kentucky and an MBA from Eastern Kentucky University.

Former Whittier City Manager Keith Abbott passed in May 2020 at age 96. Keith was born November 7, 1923 in St. George. Keith served in the United States Navy and was stationed in the South Pacific from April 1943 to November 1945. He survived the sinking of the US Monaghan during a typhoon off the coast of the Philippines in December 1944. After living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Keith moved to La Mirada in 1955 and began working for the City of Whittier as city controller in November 1956. He became the assistant city manager in 1965 and then worked as the Whittier city manager from 1967 until he retired in 1980. Keith was a mentor to many who became city managers and municipal department.

Pleasanton’s first city manager was the late Jim Fales, who was a roommate at the University of California, Berkeley (Cal) with retired City Manager Lou Shepard. Jim is a past president of the City Managers’ Department of the League of California Cities (1973- 1974) during the time he was city manager for the City of Redwood City. While Jim was an administrative assistant in Berkeley in 1959 he served as president of MMANC. He became city manager in Pleasanton in 1969. He left there for Redwood City and then became the Richmond city manager in 1982. He retired in 1988. Jim passed away after a short illness in March 1994.


Congratulations to Chief Anthony Marrone on his appointment to be the next Los Angeles County fire chief.

Anil Comelo, St. Helena city manager since July 2022, earned a BA & MPA from California State University, East Bay.

Jurupa Valley founding City Manager Stephen Harding, a past participant of the “Proof of Life” program, is an instructor in political history at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of California, Riverside.

Melanie Franceschini is a management analyst in the City Manager’s Office in Newport Beach, and she is a former aquatics manager for the City of Irvine, where she started as a City Council intern, after serving a year and eight months as an intern in the Newport Beach City Manager’s Office.

Before Sara Lillevand served as recreation director and then city administrator in the City of Piedmont, she was an intercollegiate basketball coach.

This year marked the 150th since the incorporation of the City of Napa, where Steve Potter serves as city manager, and the 100th year the City has owned the municipal water system.

After working for Oceanside since April 1989, starting as a lifeguard, Chief of Police Fred Armijo plans to retire on April 1, 2023.

City of Norco Mayor Pro Tem Ted Hoffman, a U. S. Army veteran and retired Riverside County Sheriff’s Department sergeant, passed away on Wednesday, February 22 at age 70.

Jennifer Vaughn and Saara Lampwalla of Tripepi Smith recently attended the Texas Municipal League Annual Conference.

El Cajon City Manager Graham Mitchell since May 2017 previously served as city manager in the cities of Farmersville, Lemon Grove and Escondido, and is a part-time faculty member at San Diego State University.

Calimesa City Manager Will Kolbow, who previously served in the cities of Orange, San Bernardino, and Rancho Cucamonga, earned an MPA from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

UCLA alumnus Roy Pederson, who served in public management for nearly 35-years (1964-1998), and served as ICMA president, considers himself a “Student at Life.”

Karena McGee Shackelford became the Fremont city manager in October 2021.