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Ed Shikada hired as Palo Alto's assistant city manager

Former San Jose city manager becomes city's second high-profile hire in recent weeks

Edward Shikada, a former transportation executive who spent more than a decade in San Jose City Hall before resigning abruptly in December, has been tapped to serve as an assistant city manager in Palo Alto, the Weekly has learned.

City Manager James Keene said Thursday that he has hired Shikada on an interim basis for a position that until a year ago didn't exist. The appointment makes Shikada the second assistant city manager to get hired in recent weeks. On Monday night, the City Council is set to approve the contract for Suzanne Mason, a former Human Resources Director for the County of Napa and, before that, for the City of Long Beach.

Shikada, like Mason, has Long Beach connections, though his expertise revolves around transportation and public works. He has served as a transportation planner and, later, as director of Public Works in Long Beach before arriving in San Jose in 2003. He spent nearly a decade in San Jose, first as deputy city manager and later as an assistant city manager, before being tapped as city manager in November 2013.

Though the San Jose City Council approved his appointment unanimously, his tenure as the city's chief administrative official proved abrupt and controversial. Shortly after the November election, Shikada faced criticism from several council members for firing Alex Gurza, the city's deputy city manager, without first notifying them, according to the website San Jose Inside. The website also cited widespread speculation that the city's newly elected mayor, Sam Liccardo, wanted a leadership change. Shikada abruptly resigned on Dec. 17 after the council held two closed sessions to discuss his performance.

In discussing the new appointment, Keene praised Shikada's many years of experience in planning and transportation and called a "great background for us, given the issues that we've got."

Keene said Shikada's term will stretch until early August, at which time both parties will reassess their options. The reason his appointment, unlike Mason's, is on the interim basis is because Shikada has indicated he may pursue a city manager position elsewhere.

Keene has been without an assistant city manager since Pam Antil resigned in April 2014 to accept a job as assistant city manager in San Jose. She left that position immediately after Shikada resigned last December. Now, in an unusual game of bureaucratic musical chairs, Shikada will be temporarily assuming Antil's old job in Palo Alto.

Once vacancy turned into two in the summer of 2014, when the council agreed to convert a previously administrative position ("assistant to the city manager") into an executive one by adding a second "assistant city manager" position to the city manager's budget.

Keene said the city has been interviewing people for the two assistant city manager positions since last summer, but didn't have any candidates who had the right combination of experience and "good fit" for Palo Alto. He lauded Shikada's background as a certified engineer and a transportation expert and said he did not see the nature of Shikada's exit from San Jose as a deterrent to the appointment.

"City managers come and go and for lots of different reasons," Keene told the Weekly. "My sense of Ed's professionalism is that he's an excellent professional and he's done great work. He's a very smart guy and I think he can contribute to and help our organization."

Keene said Shikada's appointment will begin next week and he will have an annual salary of $200,000, pro-rated to account for the time served. If his term ends in early August, his compensation will be about $67,000. Unlike Mason, he will not receive a rent stipend in addition to his salary. Furthermore, because Shikada's appointment is temporary, it does not need to go to the council for approval at this time. The council would have to sign off on his hiring if he becomes a permanent assistant city manager, Keene said.

Keene said Mason will focus largely on City Hall's internal infrastructure, including functions such as Human Resources and Information Technology. Shikada, meanwhile, will be working most closely with departments such as Public Works, Utilities and Community Services.

"I've interviewed city managers and assistant city managers who had done well and were doing well in other places, but I didn't think the fit would be right," Keene said. "I think both people I'm bringing in now would make really effective contributions."

In an interview Friday, Shikada said he sees his new role in Palo Alto as that of a "utility player," someone who can quickly jump in and take over whatever role needs attention. He acknowledged the big difference between San Jose (which as a population of about 1 million) and Palo Alto (which has about 65,000 residents). In his former job, the size of the organization often required him to focus on process more than on the actual outcome of the city's actions. In the smaller Palo Alto organization, by contrast, staff's interactions and impacts can be more direct.

"We're all at the front door, at the front curb, really working directly with citizens and businesses," Shikada said. "I'm really looking forward to that. It's a different scale."

Much of his work will be in the realm of transportation and development, areas of intense community concern and council attention. He said he expects development issues to be "front and center" in his new job, including community engagement over planning issues. The biggest challenge, he said, would be bringing himself up to speed on local issues.

"It's a very busy community; a very busy organization," Shikada said. "Palo Alto is at the center of the economic resurgence happening throughout the Silicon Valley. It's a really exciting time to be a part of the organization."

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28 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2015 at 11:33 am

Two issues:

1. Why should the city be adding additional personnel to the city manager's office? It seems that Keen is adding too much admin on the top of the chain of command's pyramid. It's time to trim the fat at the top rather than add an additional layer.

2. Why would the city even consider hiring someone with a checkered past? At least it is an interim/part-time position so the city can 'test drive' him and it's easier to let him go when he doesn't work out.

25 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 3, 2015 at 5:19 pm

The thing from the article that really strikes me is that San Jose is more than 15x the size of Palo Alto yet has only 1/3 the number of employees. Yikes!

8 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 3, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Per my above, size means population, not land area. Sorry.

Like this comment
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 3, 2015 at 9:35 pm

Welcome aboard the new team!

Good choices, indeed.

Two diversity selections with talent not just the diversity. Palo Alto could use some of it!

We all need to give a hearty welcome and pile on more work so we can get the best out of them!


4 people like this
Posted by Cathy M
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Wow, Palo Alto is lucky to have Ed Shikada join your team! Ed made a huge difference with staff and the community when worked in San Jose. He is a genuine person who cares about people and gets the job done. Outstanding choice!

17 people like this
Posted by One More Step Toward Becoming Another San Jose
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 4, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Of course we need a long time San Jose administrator to help sort out the issues in Palo Alto. Of course we do. Otherwise, we have no hope of becoming another San Jose.

16 people like this
Posted by How much?
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2015 at 9:29 am

Publish all salaries and pensions (including the cost of medical and other benefits) being paid. And add loans made.

18 people like this
Posted by Lack of Transparency
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 5, 2015 at 11:00 am

The lack of transparency here is comical if it weren't ridiculous.

So many unanswered questions.

First why is Palo Alto hiring a guy who before he even starts the job is looking for a better job. Is this temporary welfare for unemployed city managers?

Second if Palo Alto has been without these positions for over a year why do we need a second welfare spot for four months when we just hired one of them permanently. This sounds a lot like a gift to the fired city manager from san jose who will either be moving on very quickly or settle for a job he doesn't really want. Either way a bad deal for Palo Alto

Next lets be real here. Antil didn't resign in 2014, Keene terminated her because he felt threatened by her outgoing personality. Do some reporting for a change, go look at her severance package. You don't get those when you "resign".

And on to more. Good question why he needs two assistant when he hasn't had any for a long time. Maybe it's because he like to have two of everything. Rumor around the building is he is about to hire another PR person so he will have 2 of those also.

All this is really crazy. Council needs to pay more attention to his staffing. He is bleeding the citys gold dry. It's not about how many staff are on his org chart how many of us actually work in his office, that's the reality.

and lastly the new guy is dreaming if he thinks he isn't going to focus on process in Palo Alto. Palo Alto is the center of process.

15 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2015 at 11:57 am

Lack of Transparency, I totally agree with your post above except for your point that you don't get severance packages when you "resign." They're called "golden parachutes" and take many forms.

Carly Fiorina got $20,000,000 to go away when she "resigned." Jaime Rodriquez got praised to the sky by Mr. Keene and got to a consulting contract to oversee a $3,000,000 project for all the traffic lights when he failed for many many years to fix one of the lights that's still causing major bottlenecks lo these many many years later.

I'd still like some disclosure on how much in "extra pay" city officials get. That phrase is always mentioned and never quantified.

9 people like this
Posted by any difference?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2015 at 12:48 pm

More than two months ago the Mayor and Councilman Burt brought up the
ridiculous sign clutter- a string of No Parking signs about 20 ft apart
on Embarcadero Rd westbound at the entrance to our city. Guess what?
All the signs are still there. This is profoundly symbolic of what is wrong in Palo Alto on a number of levels. A new set of ethics is needed in City
Hall to stop and even attempt to reverse the rapid downward spiral. Will two new Asst City Managers make any difference?

9 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Right after Mitchell Park Library opened, I wrote to the library director to complained about parking and the lack of a dropoff box at Mitchell Park Library. The library director said there was 5-minute parking in front of the library.

Really? There are No Stopping signs in front of the library. Oh, we've gotten a lot of complaints and those signs will be replaced with 5 Minute Parking signs. Public Works will be getting right on it.

Still waiting.

Like this comment
Posted by Nate Jaeger
a resident of University South
on Apr 5, 2015 at 1:29 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2015 at 2:28 pm

2014 salaries:

Web Link

14 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2015 at 11:17 am

What do you expect when the city manager comes from Berkeley? Tax and spend progressive liberals who love to create more government employment. That's how they roll. Two assistant city managers? How does this benefit the citizens of Palo Alto? Who in their right mind (council members pay attention) would approve of this absurdity? My suggestion....fire Keene, appoint the new assistant as city manager without rent perks) and get rid of the temp hire. Then, let everyone know there is more to come by instructing the new manager to trim the fat. We need accountability and we get none. There are more managers at the city level than in any private sector employment situation. Government wasteful spending at its finest. It's the Palo Alto way. City Council needs to show some strength here. Wanna bet things don't change?

Like this comment
Posted by Russell Hancock
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Apr 6, 2015 at 12:30 pm

I have tremendous respect for Ed Shikada. He's a superb professional.

10 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 6, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Why would he need a rent stipend when he just got $125,000 in severance from San Jose?

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Apr 6, 2015 at 1:26 pm

He is NOT getting a rent allowance.

4 people like this
Posted by Online
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 6, 2015 at 1:35 pm

I know that. He's got his severance.

How many senior citizens making say $2,000 a month, $24,000 a year, does it take to support the City Managers office and staff? They make more than the governor of CA. They make more than the average "rich" Palo Alto residents supporting them. Govt workers were supposed to be modestly paid in return for job security, benefits and pensions, none of which private sector workers get.

When you've got people making over $100,000 a year getting over-time, it ceases to be amusing.

They spent $4.5 million to redecorate the 1st floor of City Hall which other media have reported is structurally unsound, with "way-finding art" extra.

The city's priorities are SO nuts.

7 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 6, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I am curious about our management model. Is it right-sized? A website or two ago one could easily see a City org chart. This is no longer the case; to find an org chart now one has to wade through budget documents. Conversely, if one looks at Sacramento's website, that city's org chart is readily available. Our capital, with a population that is 7x that of Palo Alto's has ONE City Manager and ZERO Assistant City Managers. Sacramento appears to be much more efficient than Palo Alto. Is there something that Sacramento is doing right that we are not? There may be a perfectly good reason for the glaring differences in the number of managers needed to run the two cities. Maybe Sacramento uses even more consultants than Palo Alto. Mr Keene: please explain; it would be nice to understand the reasoning behind your hiring plan. Also, I'd like to see Palo Alto follow Sacramento's lead and put the City's org chart back on the website where it can be easily accessed.

11 people like this
Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on Apr 6, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Compare CPA's overhead with other Peninsula cities. It comes out crazy. I actually think the James Keene doesn't do a bad job, but do I think he needs two assistants City Mgrs? Absolutely not. The old saw is "we have to pay the most to get the best." Well, we did that and he cannot handle the job alone. Suggestion: We divide his salary and benefits by 2/3 and use that to pay the two assistants.

Additional employees and especially the attendant pensions that go with them have got to be stopped!

13 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2015 at 2:11 pm

@ Russell Hancock. Ed Shikada may be a great guy and fine administrator. We simply don't need him.

13 people like this
Posted by Que Pasa
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 6, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Tell us again why the overpaid and underworked Keene needs TWO assistants? And why they will have to pull in top salaries and housing allowances?

All the years my sister's husband was the financial director for the City of Palo Alto, he had to live near downtown SJ, he received no housing allowance to live in PA.

Obviously, Palo Alto is much too flush with money..,,, although they claim poverty when it comes to funding the animal shelter, which is in danger of being closed ( and all animal services discontinued).

5 people like this
Posted by PA Taxpayer
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 6, 2015 at 7:10 pm

[Post removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2015 at 7:25 pm

Last November, the Public Works Dept did some street repairs at the corner of Santa Rita and Waverley. For 5 months, Public Works neglected to come back to pick up their A-frames, sandbags and other leftover work equipment from the day long repair project. Last week a couple of neighbors complained to the city that the construction materials were still sitting in the street, after all these months. Public Works finally came over to pick up the equipment yesterday, but they inadvertently left one of the A-frames in the street. The incompetence and laziness of some Public Works employees is a disgrace. We're still waiting to have the final A-frame removed.

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