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James Keene named new Palo Alto city manager

Former manager of Tucson and Berkeley, Keene said he loves the Bay Area

James Keene, a former city manager of both Berkeley and Tucson, will be Palo Alto's seventh city manager, Mayor Larry Klein announced Thursday morning.

The decision was unanimous, Klein said.

Keene has most recently worked with the International City/County Management Association.

He will be paid $240,000 and intends to move to Palo Alto from the Berkeley area.

Klein said Keene embraces the city's goals of environmental sustainability, technological leadership, civic engagement and fiscal responsibility.

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Keene said he receives many calls about city manager jobs that he turns down.

But Palo Alto is different, he said.

He said he was convinced after talking with longtime friend and current City Manager Frank Benest and after meeting the City Council.

As a teenager, Keene lived in Princeton, N.J. and said he loves college towns.

He enjoys running.

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Keene will begin Sept. 2, Klein said.

The City Council reached a decision about the manager and his salary/benefits package at a one-hour closed session Tuesday night.

The council has shielded the candidates' identities to protect their privacy and current jobs.

Benest is retiring this summer after eight years with the city.

Council members John Barton and Jack Morton were absent for sessions about the city manager Monday and Tuesday evenings.

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James Keene named new Palo Alto city manager

Former manager of Tucson and Berkeley, Keene said he loves the Bay Area

by Becky Trout / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Jun 26, 2008, 10:40 am

James Keene, a former city manager of both Berkeley and Tucson, will be Palo Alto's seventh city manager, Mayor Larry Klein announced Thursday morning.

The decision was unanimous, Klein said.

Keene has most recently worked with the International City/County Management Association.

He will be paid $240,000 and intends to move to Palo Alto from the Berkeley area.

Klein said Keene embraces the city's goals of environmental sustainability, technological leadership, civic engagement and fiscal responsibility.

Keene said he receives many calls about city manager jobs that he turns down.

But Palo Alto is different, he said.

He said he was convinced after talking with longtime friend and current City Manager Frank Benest and after meeting the City Council.

As a teenager, Keene lived in Princeton, N.J. and said he loves college towns.

He enjoys running.

Keene will begin Sept. 2, Klein said.

The City Council reached a decision about the manager and his salary/benefits package at a one-hour closed session Tuesday night.

The council has shielded the candidates' identities to protect their privacy and current jobs.

Benest is retiring this summer after eight years with the city.

Council members John Barton and Jack Morton were absent for sessions about the city manager Monday and Tuesday evenings.

View the press release (PDF)

Comments

Bobbi Fox
Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:11 am
Bobbi Fox, Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:11 am

WELCOME JIM

We have our hopes on you for wise judgements for our cities best welfare which has a very very diverse base.

Best of luck

Roberta Fox


Benest
Charleston Gardens
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:18 am
Benest, Charleston Gardens
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:18 am

I would have thought that for such an important decision all of the city counil would be involved in the final decision.
Why were Barton and Morton absent?
Did Morton have a conflict of interest? (I doubt he knows what that is)


Becky Trout
Registered user
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Jun 26, 2008 at 2:21 pm
Becky Trout, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
Registered user
on Jun 26, 2008 at 2:21 pm

Hi all,

Council members Barton and Morton are on vacation. This week, the council only debated salary issues. Klein said both Barton and Morton support Keene.

Thanks.


fireman
another community
on Jun 26, 2008 at 2:38 pm
fireman, another community
on Jun 26, 2008 at 2:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Carol Bougardes
Stanford
on Jun 26, 2008 at 3:12 pm
Carol Bougardes, Stanford
on Jun 26, 2008 at 3:12 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


JA3
Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 3:14 pm
JA3 , Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 3:14 pm

>Keene embraces the city's goals of ... fiscal responsibility.

Fantastic; in general, if you take care of financial matters first and foremost, then much good is likely to come.

Focus on sales-tax revenue: increasingly, this is the mantra of City government in the State of California; I hope PA keeps its eyes on retail sales here in our City.

>Klein said he expects Keene will have a more "hands-on" style than outgoing City Manager Frank Benest.

Again, fantastic; a 'hands-on' approach from a veteran public entity manager sounds absolutely great.

The best of luck to Mr. Keene!


JA3
Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 3:17 pm
JA3 , Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 3:17 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Deja Vu All Over Again
another community
on Jun 26, 2008 at 3:18 pm
Deja Vu All Over Again, another community
on Jun 26, 2008 at 3:18 pm

BERKELEY CITY MANAGER TAKES JOB IN TUCSON

Keene says politics not a factor in decision

Debra Levi Holtz, Chronicle Staff Writer

Friday, June 9, 2000



Web Link

This article appeared on page A - 22 of the San Francisco Chronicle


Rebecca
Professorville
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:23 pm
Rebecca, Professorville
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:23 pm

I wish Mr. Keene the best of luck with the citizens and city council of Palo Alto and I respecfully request we check any rush to judgement due to any personal associations. Let the man do his job, we will learn soon enough what kind of city manager he will be. You know, it is actually possible that he will do a good job!


Free Houses for the Asking
Charleston Meadows
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:40 pm
Free Houses for the Asking, Charleston Meadows
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:40 pm

Are we buying him a house as well.


Sceptical
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2008 at 5:33 pm
Sceptical, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2008 at 5:33 pm

I don't understand why we should provide him a home, or other perks when this does not exist in the real world for most other directors.
There are many high level managers and directors here in Palo Alto who are having a hard time making mortgage payments. Wives work to make ends meet. People stuggle here.

Having a career in each place which lasts 4 or 5 years is hardly worth boasting about. I would think there is a problem.

In the corporate world, managers and directors often last 20 years or more at their positions, and then go on for another 15 or more when they decide to change jobs/careers.

He is 49? Something is not right here.

What about all those other years?







pam
Charleston Gardens
on Jun 26, 2008 at 6:49 pm
pam, Charleston Gardens
on Jun 26, 2008 at 6:49 pm

"when this does not exist in the real world"

who said this was the real world?


Ronna Devincenzi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:11 pm
Ronna Devincenzi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:11 pm

It is refreshing to learn that it Berkeley, you had a reputation for being supportive to business, for being open to listening, and responsive to the concerns and the unique needs of the business community. So on behalf of the 250+ merchants within the California Avenue corridor, with whom I volunteer, welcome to Palo Alto!


Very interesting!
another community
on Jun 27, 2008 at 4:36 am
Very interesting!, another community
on Jun 27, 2008 at 4:36 am

PUBLISHED ON AUGUST 17, 2000:

Keene Criticism

Tucson's New City Manager Is No Stranger To Political Factionalism.

By DAVE DEVINE email the Weekly
Keene Criticism
WHEN JAMES KEENE becomes Tucson's $168,000-a-year city manager next week, he'll bring more than paper and pencils with him to his 10th-floor office. He'll also be carrying a lot of baggage from his last job in Berkeley, California--baggage that includes a reputation as a chief administrator who, for political purposes, withholds information from both the general public and elected officials.

[Palo Alto Online editor's note: Please post links to copyrighted material such as stories from other newspapers, or use short excerpts. We cannot permit republication of copyrighted content on Town Square. See our Terms of Use.]


Link to Tucson Story
Meadow Park
on Jun 27, 2008 at 4:51 pm
Link to Tucson Story, Meadow Park
on Jun 27, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Fair point by the editor - here is the link to the Tuscon story...

Web Link


Deja Vu All Over Again
another community
on Jun 28, 2008 at 10:55 am
Deja Vu All Over Again, another community
on Jun 28, 2008 at 10:55 am

Here are links to two more articles from the Tucson Weekly about James Keene.

“California Dreaming”, Tucson Weekly, October 21, 2004:
Web Link

“Tattered Covers: The Tucson-Pima Library System can’t keep up with demand”, Tucson Weekly, December 9, 2004:
Web Link


gocubs
Midtown
on Jun 28, 2008 at 3:44 pm
gocubs, Midtown
on Jun 28, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Jim is a good guy, works hard and brings a lot of enthusiasm. the employees and citizens of Palo Alto are lucky and will better for having him in their lives.


Amazed Resident
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2008 at 10:19 pm
Amazed Resident, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2008 at 10:19 pm

From reading the above links about this guy, I am amazed that he was chosen.

From the first link...

"Keene uses pay raises for his department heads to encourage them to withhold information from elected officials. "People who really suck up to him get rewarded, and they keep information from the council,".

It looks like he will keep our council watch dogs busier than ever.

We will see how long he lasts here from residents "Civic engagement".

If he can't survive in Tucson or Berkeley, he surely won't last long here.

The secretness of his actions inflamed people in both cities.

Transparency? I am not so sure we are going to get that.

I think he should rent for 5 years (put him in BMR housing) as a probationary measure, until we are sure that he is right.

If we are not happy with him, we can just get rid of him without the financial setbacks.

With his history, 5 years probation seems good.

BMR housing and a BIKE - That's it.

Anything better than this can be rewarded with incentives.


wow
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2008 at 3:39 pm
wow, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Lynching him already.? No one gets a chance around here.


Outside Observer
another community
on Jun 30, 2008 at 4:01 pm
Outside Observer, another community
on Jun 30, 2008 at 4:01 pm


> BMR housing and a BIKE - That's it.

I love it! That would be the fastest way to end both!



Mike W
another community
on Jun 30, 2008 at 4:50 pm
Mike W, another community
on Jun 30, 2008 at 4:50 pm

A Tucson employee here. Jim Keene turned the top layers of Tucson city government into a real team. Everyone was excited about what we were doing and for the future. Jim made it a pleasure to come to work every day. We certainly do not have that now. 9/11 happened during his tenure and the City's finances took a nose dive. We rely on tourism, sales tax, etc. The budget deficit was extreme. Keene asked for Council policy direction to make the needed cuts. That ticked them off. They weren't about to tell their cronies the cookie jar was empty. If you want a CM who can get the employees focused on high quality civil aervice - Keene is your man. Forget the Tucson Weekly articles - it is a rag that can publish whatever cr*p it wants because it doesn't adhere to journalistic standards. I hope your Mayor and Council can keep up with Keene's enrgy and oraganizational style. Tucson's couldn't, and we are the worse for his leaving. Good luck to Jim and to Palo Alto.


Jennifer Joo
Evergreen Park
on Jul 1, 2008 at 9:18 am
Jennifer Joo, Evergreen Park
on Jul 1, 2008 at 9:18 am

There is no call for such questions about this new city manager. Give the guy a chance!


fireman
another community
on Jul 5, 2008 at 5:49 am
fireman, another community
on Jul 5, 2008 at 5:49 am

Mike W. Heard the Same lines from Frank Benest. City Finances took a nose dive? Frank cried baby boomers as he let his out of control crones blunder a way the publics funds. Oh and yes you are one more person saying. Do not believe the newspapers, do not believe what you see or what you read about. You are the one Mr W who really knows.
Hey take him back then. If he was missed so much take him back. The Citizens of Palo Alto did not pick him. Seen his conman games many times.
Oh and your blame it on 9/11, The whole USA went through that? What is the excuse of the rest of the USA. It did not fall apart?Not all cities had the problems?

It is not a matter of giving him a chance. It is a matter of ONE MORE City Mamager , who sounds just like the last?
Gave him a chance for 8 years, How did it work? I would have to say, not so good.


George
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2008 at 9:01 am
George, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2008 at 9:01 am

This is yet another sign that our town council is trying to turn Palo Alto into Berekley. I think it's time to move.


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