Ed Shikada probably won't need much of a learning curve for his new job as Palo Alto's permanent utilities director.
Shikada, who joined the city in April 2015 as an interim assistant city manager, has been tackling some of Palo Alto's thorniest and most technical issues -- from Palo Alto's quest to revamp its animal-services operation to its strategy for obtaining regional funding for transportation improvements. And in January of this year, he was appointed by City Manager James Keene as the interim utilities director, replacing veteran Valerie Fong.
Now, after about 10 months of recruiting for the permanent position, Shikada was selected for the permanent position, Keene announced Thursday. The appointment will go to the City Council on Oct. 4 for confirmation.
In the announcement, Keene said the city has gone out twice in a national search but “at the end of the day it was clear that the best choice for our community was right here at home.”
The appointment also marks a structural change in the city's organization. Keene said Shikada will retain strategic operational responsibilities as the assistant city manager (his portfolio in that role includes public works, transportation, community services and public safety) while also serving as the general manager (as the position is now called) of the Utilities Department, which operates the municipal gas, electric, water and fiber utilities.
“Utilities is our largest department with about one-fourth of our workforce, so this move aligns well with our management needs. I am confident that Ed’s organizational and operational experience makes this the right choice for Palo Alto,” Keene said in a statement. “I expect that greater coordination between departments and integration of Utilities within the City will occur.”
Shikada called the appointment a “unique opportunity to lead an extraordinary organization."
The city, he said in a statement, is a "national leader with our 100% carbon neutral energy portfolio, among the highest solar generation per capita, and pushing the industry in electrification to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.”
“Our full suite of electric, water, natural gas, wastewater and fiber optic services uniquely positions Palo Alto to continue our leadership as a utility of the future, while ensuring we meet today’s safety and reliability needs,” Shikada said. “In addition, the intersection of energy with transportation and mobility makes this a pivotal time to review and reset our strategic direction.”
Prior to coming to Palo Alto, Shikada worked for more than a decade for the City of San Jose, where he began as deputy city manager and served as city manager from November 2013 to December 2014. Before that, he spent eight years working for the City of Long Beach and held a variety of jobs, including director of public works and manager of traffic and transportation.
Shikada's salary as utilities director and assistant city manager will be set at $285,000.