By Diana Diamond
A new PA mayor is facing many challengesUploaded: Jan 8, 2019
Palo Alto has a new mayor, councilman Eric Filseth, who was unanimously elected Monday night. I have many good wishes for him – including good luck. “Luck” because the city has so many new things happening and so many current high-level vacancies that we will need a strong mayor and council to make sure this city is running smoothly.
Filseth and the council will face many challenges: Palo Alto has a brand new city manager, Ed Shikada, who while serving as utilities director the past months and as assistant city manager, is new to the role of city manager. Shikada has been regarded as a hands-on nuts-and-bolts kind of guy, which is great, however, a manager’s job also requires strong leadership for a thousand-plus city employees, strategic planning and forethought, and, of course, keeping the entire city running during of time of continued growth.
And right now Palo Alto has a dearth of top-level vacancies, many of which have surprisingly not been filled for months: Planning Director Hillary Gitelman resigned in May, the city is looking for a new fire chief, a transportation director, a public works director, a new chief financial director, a new auditor, a development services director, a community services director, a head for the city’s massive utilities department, and the list goes on. The city has lost a lot of expertise with these resignations, and while in some cases temporary directors have been appointed, we need permanent ones who will know they have the full responsibility and authority to run their departments.
Which brings me again to Filseth. While all these vacancies create an unusual time, we need the mayor and council to assume more responsibility in running this city by ensuring on a constant basis that the city working efficiently. Usually this task is that of the city manager, and while I am confident Shikada will be fine, the council needs to become more active in running the place, ensuring that replacements are being hired and the needed work is being done. We certainly don’t want to feel there’s been a partial government shutdown in Palo Alto.
Given Filseth’s experience as CEO of several technology companies, I have great faith that he’s the man who can do the job. The rest of the council, particularly Tom DuBois, who also has corporate and council experience, will have to assist him.
It is a challenging time, but that’s part of the fun of being mayor and serving on the city council. Again, good luck!