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."