News

Palo Alto set to hire new assistant city manager

Suzanne Mason tapped for senior position at City Hall

Palo Alto City Manager James Keene is preparing to fill one of City Hall's senior leadership positions in May, when Suzanne Mason starts her new job as the assistant city manager.

Mason, who currently serves as director of Human Resources for the County of Napa, is set to start her new position on May 5, pending the City Council's confirmation of her appointment on April 6. The position has been vacant since former Assistant City Manager Pamela Antil resigned a year ago to take a job in San Jose.

Keene said Thursday that Mason was selected after an "extensive national search and recruitment process that included comprehensive input from a broad spectrum of community stakeholders." He touted Mason's more than 30 years of experience in local government, which he said will be "a tremendous asset to this executive position with a broad portfolio of responsibilities."

"Her role as an Assistant City Manager requires an understanding of the complexities of city operations, including all of our utilities, as well as a responsiveness to the community and to our employees, and a commitment to continuous excellence across all departments," Keene said in a statement. "Suzanne's career in public service and impressive experience make her an ideal fit for this position, and we are looking forward to her joining Palo Alto."

Mason has spent the bulk of her career with the City of Long Beach, where she started working in 1984. This included a stint as deputy city manager between 2002 and 2007, followed by two years as director of human services.

In addition to a salary of $220,000, Mason will receive an unusual perk: a monthly stipend of $2,500 for rent expenses. In a report to the City Council, Keene acknowledged that rental-housing assistance "is not a customary benefit" that the city has provided in recent years, yet recommends that it be approved in this case.

"The City is finding, however, that the high cost of housing in the region and specifically Palo Alto is creating barriers to attracting experienced, high-quality applicants, particularly at the executive level."

Keene is also now recruiting for a second assistant city manager position. In the past, the office had an "assistant to the city manager" position that was more administrative in nature.

In the fiscal year 2015 budget, that position was converted to an "assistant city manager," an executive-level position. An assistant city manager generally has the authority to fill in for the city manager in Keene's absence.

In a statement, Mason said she is "very excited about the opportunity to join the management team in Palo Alto."

"The Assistant City Manager position offers me a unique opportunity to return to city management in a progressive, well-run city.," Mason said. "I spent 25 years of my career working for the City of Long Beach. Long Beach and Palo Alto share similar challenges in balancing the need to protect the unique qualities of city neighborhoods with market driven demand for economic growth.

"I look forward to working with the City Council, the management team and City employees in serving the residents of Palo Alto." 

Comments

19 people like this
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2015 at 8:13 pm

$220K + penions + healthcare + .. + .. is a lot of money for someone with no real accountability to anyone but the City Manager.

Wonder what the previous Assistant City Manager actually achieved to justify her salary?


9 people like this
Posted by Palo alto native
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 27, 2015 at 2:02 am

Palo alto native is a registered user.

Sweet deal for her! Long Beach and Palo Alto are very different cities: PA is high tech and highly educated. Long Beach has long since become another East Palo Alto in terms of comparative lower SES and crime rates. It's a very different Long Beach compared to the 20s-50s when I had relations who lived there, that's for sure. Still, wise of her to play up some kind of similarities. Napa County is different too. However, she has been at the local government level since 1984: is in my view, that's impressive. The pay is too high, but that's not her fault. Brace yourself Suzanne, here comes a heck of a ride. Good luck.


23 people like this
Posted by CPanon
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 27, 2015 at 6:08 am

A city manager for a city having ~67,000 residents should not need TWO "assistants" of this kind, at cost of over $250,000 EACH. One administrative aide should be enough.

Serving residents? What more do PA voters need to be convinced that city government serves cadres of government sector workers moreso than residents?

Que chorus: "Oh [PA residents], you're rich. You can afford it."



17 people like this
Posted by wrong direction
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2015 at 7:11 am

Street sweeping is cut to every other week,no more cops to fight the
increasing crime in our city and the speeders which gets worse every day,
but we get more signs and bright red and yellow paint all over the streets,
no more cops,just more ugly signs and paint. And TWO Asst City Managers.
Priority has been to streamline Development Center but the over-zoning
gets no attention. This City is going in the wrong direction just to
state the obvious.




17 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 27, 2015 at 8:00 am

Someone making a $220K salary can afford housing without a $30K rent stipend ($2500 x 12). Even in Palo Alto.


13 people like this
Posted by nokidding
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 27, 2015 at 8:19 am

This opening and benefits pay more than a MD uphill! I am sure no local qualify for the position.


Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

on Mar 27, 2015 at 9:44 am


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


17 people like this
Posted by Adnan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2015 at 9:53 am

[Portion removed.] She's a bad fit for a progressive community; those who rely on City services and staff should be warned that she will attack those services to save money in the short term. As for salary, including benefits exclusive to Management she will cost Palo Alto far more than mentioned above: The max hourly salary is $111.86/hour which is $232,668.80/year (apparently she'll get that bump up to the max next year). Plus the rent stipend of $30,000/year (close to what some of the City employees are paid in total), plus payments only managers get for investments and lifetime medical benefits worth tens of thousands. [Portion removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Oldman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2015 at 11:28 am

No wonder nothing from a long range plan was adopted after all the City was missing an assistant city manager and the senior staff was looking for some to their work!
Only in Palo Alto a city manager get way with this


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 27, 2015 at 11:50 am

[Post removed.]


25 people like this
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Gethin is a registered user.

This is a horrible waste of money which could be better spent on a long list of other for essential programs. I dont believe a city as small as Palo Alto needs two overpaid managers. If Keene can't cope I recommend we get rid of him and find someone more capable.
And if you earn $220K there should be no question of a rent stipend. Its just a way to pretend she doesn't earn $250K


24 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2015 at 12:08 pm

OK, to me, this salary is way too high and evidence of government out of control.
How about we taxpayers get a clear accounting of her duties, expectations, goals and get to then receive her performance review 6 months of one year down the line - with specifics? Oh, I forgot, such accountability is only for the private sector and "privacy" will reign here. I am willing to consider she may be worth such a high salary, but I sincerely doubt it, and I also know we taxpayers will not be permitted TO know. How clever a system.
Remember this when you vote.


29 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 27, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Mr. Keene's empire building should be brought under control by the city council. Since arriving in Palo Alto he has hired a cadre of highly paid upper level managers pension and lifetime health care liabilities will become huge burden to the city. And paying an extra $30K a year on top of her high salary as a way to get around a salary cap is outrageous. But then she looks to have a pretty face.


18 people like this
Posted by nok
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 27, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Last time I heard, Mr. Obama earns about 400k a year and he has the white house. I bet Mr. Keene should be very close to that figure!


17 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 27, 2015 at 3:33 pm

A quick web search shows that Gov. Jerry Brown of California's salary was $173,987 for 2014. Housing for the "first family" is not provided by the state.


20 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 27, 2015 at 3:43 pm

It has been mentioned before, but it appears Mr. Keene is trying to empty the treasury and build his own empire at the same time. He has been more aggressive at it since the Maybell vote in which the whole city, not just one neighborhood, showed it does not like his development excesses.
The huge PR expenditures, increased top staff, countless consulting firms, huge expenditure to gussy-up the cityhall lobby ($ 4.5 MILLION), are very compelling evidence. Not to mention the items we can't figure out on the Consent Calendar.


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 27, 2015 at 3:53 pm

When we pool so many taxpayer dollars, we need to expect high compensation packages. Check out Hartnett's $434,000 -- Web Link -- at SamTrans/Caltrain.

I don't even want to look at what our Santa Clara VTA chief costs.

Elected offices are much different -- people are not drawn to them for the salary.


Like this comment
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2015 at 4:11 pm

[Post removed.]


17 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 27, 2015 at 9:04 pm

The salaries and empire-building are totally out of control and then they retain highly paid consultants to do the real work.

I will never approve another spending bill again until this nonsense stops.


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 27, 2015 at 9:20 pm

How nice that we're paying the poor thing who ONLY makes $220,000 in salary another $30,000 a year to help her with her rent.

Remind me again what the average Palo Alto makes, something like $120,000 per household. If both partners work, that's $60,000 a year per person. And few of us have lucrative pensions like she'll get.

Obviously she needs it more than us. FEH.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 28, 2015 at 2:42 am

Didn't Google just hire a CFO at $650,000 salary? The $5 million signing bonus plus moving expenses should cover her housing cost even if she decides to move into Palo Alto. Further evidence that a Stanford degree can work wonders. Oh, there's also $65M stock involved. That's something most government positions cannot match.


2 people like this
Posted by what thread?
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 28, 2015 at 3:24 am

Will we be getting a well qualified CFO?

That's great news!


10 people like this
Posted by Hillary and Bill
a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2015 at 11:23 am

Position vacant for a year. How did the city manager get his coffee? In Palo Alto, money must grow on tall trees. The federal deficit and national debt must not count in Palto Alto and Disneyland because they are their own countries. Go celebrate at Wrestlemania. No doubt the city manager will be there - at public expense.


3 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 29, 2015 at 11:27 am

Many of Mr. Keene's "hire-ees", including the one who dreamed up the new recycling plan, are from Oakland. Wasn't Jamie Rodrigues from there also? Mr. Keene also came from Oakland. A quote from Alice in Wonderland.... things get "curiouser and curiouser". Many - make that 'most' of the top brass and sub-brass do NOT live in Palo Alto. And this new hire-ee's salary. That's a 'bit over the top'. Could the Weekly list in what city each of the top managers and assistant managers and lower level managers' live? Not their addresses, just the city at least. If not, maybe the POST will do it.


8 people like this
Posted by Kerry55
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 29, 2015 at 2:29 pm

I join the chorus of nixing the empire-building of Jim Keene. CPanon states " A city manager for a city having ~67,000 residents should not need TWO "assistants" of this kind, at cost of over $250,000 EACH. One administrative aide should be enough." Please City Council Members reading , this show some fiscal responsibility and prevent this unnecessary position. Also, re-examine all "Managers" and their super-lavish salaries. As our Federal Budget, State Budget and private company expenditures are examined by auditors, have the City Auditor report on this out of control employee growth/salaries. The $$30,000 housing allowance is beyond belief.


3 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2015 at 11:08 pm

I heard a rumor that a second assistant city manager has been hired (interim) and he is someone who is a past city manager from the City of San Jose. Any truth to the rumor?


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Flash forward 90 days to find Suzanne Mason writing the "dissent" to a labor mediator's finding that Palo Alto should not farm out the RPPP enforcement, and she is revealed as the Steve Bedrosian of Keane's anti-union team:

Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by Waste of $$$$$$$$$
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2015 at 7:56 pm

James Keene does not do enough work to need any assistants, much less TWO of them. He gets eight weeks vacation, has every other Friday off, and seldom even works an eight hour day. Most of us in Silicon Valley rarely get one week per year off, and work 10-16 hour days SIX days per week.

What a freakin' wimp!


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 71 comments | 4,000 views

Global Warming Diet
By Laura Stec | 6 comments | 1,376 views

Couples: "Taming Your Gremlin" by Richard Carson
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,284 views

Preparing for kindergarten
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 728 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 383 views

 

Race is tomorrow!

​On Friday, September 21, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, or—for the first time—half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More