Ed Shikada named next city manager | News | Palo Alto Online |


Ed Shikada named next city manager

Policy veteran will take over for James Keene, who will retire at end of the year

Ed Shikada, who joined Palo Alto in April 2015 as an assistant city manager and who currently leads the city's Utilities Department, will take over City Hall's top job in 2019, when City Manager James Keene retires, the city announced Monday.

The city's abrupt announcement came a week after the City Council met in a closed session to discuss the search for Keene's replacement. Keene, who joined the city in 2008, told the council last year that he plans to retire at the end of this year. Shikada will take over early next year.

The council reached its decision on Keene's successor after an abbreviated and opaque process that consisted entirely of closed-session discussions by the council's Council Appointed Officers committee and, ultimately, the full council.

By contrast, Keene's hiring in 2008 included 42 applicants, six semifinalists, several interview panels -- including one consisting of community members -- and three finalists. The council last discussed the city manager's position on June 18 but Mayor Liz Kniss did not report any action after that closed-session discussion.

When asked about the lack of transparency and public participation in the hiring process, several council members told the Weekly that they had to move quickly on the hire to avoid losing Shikada to another organization. Councilman Greg Scharff, who serves on the Council Appointed Officers committee said that after the committee consulted several recruiters, the word it received from them is that Shikada is the best candidate.

He noted that many other agencies in the region, including the cities of Fremont and Cupertino, have openings for top executive positions.

"Basically, people indicated to us that we would lose out unless we moved quickly. It was a decision of: Do we want Ed or do we not want Ed?" Scharff said. "Looking at what was available and the high cost of living here, the council agreed that it didn't seem reasonable that we can do better than Ed."

Councilman Tom DuBois, who also serves on the Council Appointed Officers committee, said Shikada's appointment will make it easier for the city to maintain some continuity at a time when a number of senior executives are planning to retire or have already retired. The list of departing executives includes former Planning Director Hillary Gitelman, who resigned earlier this year, Chief Financial Officer Lalo Perez and Public Works Director Michael Sartor. The latter two officials have recently announced retirement plans.

In addition, with Shikada transitioning to the city manager's position, the city will now have to find a new utilities general manager, a position that Shikada had occupied since 2016.

If the city moved ahead with an extensive search for a new city manager, it would have complicated its ability to fill other positions, DuBois said.

"If Ed had left and we were doing a city manager search, it would have been very difficult to fill other positions because people want to know who their boss is going to be," DuBois said.

DuBois said he was concerned about the lack of public involvement in the process but said it was important to move fast to avoid losing a "strong candidate who already knows a lot about how Palo Alto works."

"There could still be an opportunity for the public to comment and weigh in when we do goals and performance reviews and setting criteria for evaluating the city manager," DuBois said.

In naming Shikada, the council opted for a candidate who has functioned for the past three years as both Keene's top lieutenant and City Hall's consummate utility man, with a portfolio that includes everything from utilities and transportation to public works and the city's effort to expand its animal shelter. Unlike Keene, who often brings a folksy sensibility to council meetings and sprinkles quotes from the likes of Bob Dylan and Emily Dickinson into his reports, Shikada brings to the table a wonky, technocratic demeanor, a legacy from his decades of experience in transportation policy.

For Shikada, this won't be the first go-around in City Hall's top role. He had served as city manager in San Jose from 2013 to 2014, a position he obtained after a series of promotions and increasing responsibilities. He resigned from the San Jose position in December 2014, reportedly after facing criticism from several council members about his role in firing the city's deputy city manager.

Before that, he had spent eight years in the city of Long Beach, where he served as director of Public Works, manager of traffic and transportation, city traffic engineer and transportation planning officer.

He had also served in management roles with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and in transportation consulting, according to the city's announcement.

Shikada holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Hawaii and a master's degree in urban planning from University of California, Los Angeles.

In a statement, Mayor Liz Kniss called Shikada an "exceptionally experienced professional with deep knowledge and leadership ability across the organization."

"He has the temperament, operational aptitude, dedication and commitment to public services that make him a great choice," Kniss said.

Kniss told the Weekly that she finds it "regrettable" that the city had to move as quickly as it did, but given the competitive marketplace, she and her colleagues felt it was best to move ahead and secure Shikada as the next city manager. She noted at least two cities had indicated that Shikada is one of their top choices for the city manager's job.

"Moving that quickly, almost pre-emptively, was not something I anticipated," Kniss said. "It happened in a far shorter period of time than might normally happen."

Shikada's base salary for the position will be $356,000, with a total compensation package to include an $18,500 contribution to a 457 "deferred compensation" account. He will also receive a temporary housing allowance of $4,000 a month until he is able to finalize permanent housing in Palo Alto, according to the city's announcement.

His current salary as assistant city manager and general manager of utilities is $303,000.

City Attorney Molly Stump said the council's decision was not reported after the June 18 meeting because it did not result in a final decision or agreement. When it comes to executive hiring, there is "a need to go back to the candidate before the decision is ripe for an announcement," Stump told the Weekly.

Stump said the council will formally approve Shikada's appointment and contract at a public meeting after the summer break.

Shikada said in a statement that since joining Palo Alto, he has been "impressed by the level of commitment and sense of service among our employees, and by our engaged and sophisticated citizenry." He called the city an "outstanding organization serving an extraordinary community."

"We are at the center of innovation in Silicon Valley and our work reflects the complex issues and high level of service that is representative of Palo Alto," Shikada said. "I am excited and grateful for this opportunity to lead this organization and serve the public as we work together on building community and quality of life."


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19 people like this
Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 25, 2018 at 3:09 pm

Great choice! I am delighted with the trajectory for our city with Ed as the new city manager. Being one of the community that enjoys collaborating with our city, knowing that our new city manager has the depth of experience about Palo Alto is an asset. Of course, we are not yet saying goodbye too soon to our current city manager. With many staff changes forecast this year, having the continuity with Ed was a good move by our council.

9 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 25, 2018 at 3:18 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.

I don't know anything about him.

There is a danger for the council and the candidate with such a rushed and preemptive process. The residents don't get to know him, we have no opportunity to ask him questions or think through our reactions to him. It is a done deal before it starts.

If problems start, the residents may be a lot less willing to grant him (and council) any leeway since, after all, we were not considered in the appointment.

All they want from me is my vote and my money.

9 people like this
Posted by Oh, Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2018 at 3:37 pm

re posting by rsmithjr: "I don't know anything about him."

Do we every truly know anything about anyone? Politicians say what people want to hear, and we read resumes and experiences but cannot read between the lines. A resume could appear impressive but we don't know if they were productive in those positions or not. I've voted for City Council, School Board members, and politicians and most of them have disappointed me.

[Portion removed; off topic]

22 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2018 at 3:50 pm

Mr Shikada has been the assistant city manager for more than 3 years and by all accounts has done a great job and has worked well with both elected officials and local residents. I say give him a chance.

20 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2018 at 4:17 pm

He has been working as assistant city manager for several years. Why does he need $4000/m temp housing allowance? Did he, as the assistant city manager and util manager of Palo Alto, work remotely for the last several years? That would be really strange.

43 people like this
Posted by Alex
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2018 at 4:19 pm

$356k is about twice what Jerry Brown makes Web Link

I think salaries in city hall disconnected from reality a long time ago.

12 people like this
Posted by Amanda R
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2018 at 4:58 pm

Amanda R is a registered user.

GREAT choice! An experienced, knowledgeable, and sensible City Manager! Will be thrilled to see him as City Manager.

13 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2018 at 5:10 pm

From the article:

"There could still be an opportunity for the public to comment and weigh in when we do goals and performance reviews and setting criteria for evaluating the city manager," DuBois said.


Most of the time I appreciate Mr. DuBois' comments, but this remark rings hollow. Since when has the council considered public opinion in evaluating city staff performance? Let's not forget that council rewarded Jim Keene with a merit raise shortly after a severe reprimand from the Santa Clara County Grand Jury.

21 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2018 at 6:25 pm

Maybe he'll break from Keene and save us the millions we're about to waste on a boutique animal shelter rather than contracting with the country like everyone else.

They are already very humane. Please stop using me as an ATM for your pet projects, no pun intended.

50 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 25, 2018 at 9:06 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

As of 2015, PA has/had 2 out of 3 of the highest paid city officials in California.

Web Link

"San Jose, the region’s biggest city, paid the most to one person, Edward Shikada, who received $446,000 in cash and benefits before resigning under pressure in December. He now works for last year’s third-highest compensated city manager: Palo Alto’s James Keene, whose $433,000 in salary and benefits included $52,000 in deferred compensation in addition to the city’s $68,000 contribution to his future pension."

10 people like this
Posted by Madias
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2018 at 8:09 am

"San Jose, the region’s biggest city, paid the most to one person, Edward Shikada, who received $446,000 in cash and benefits <strong>before resigning under pressure</strong>"


8 people like this
Posted by Research
a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2018 at 8:23 am

Re: m2grs -- The city charter requires that the city manager live *in* Palo Alto, hence he will need to relocate.

Maybe, in the future, you could do a few seconds of research (e.g. reading the city's statement announcing the hiring, which described the reason for the housing allowance) before making snide, judgey comments about things you don't understand. Maybe?

36 people like this
Posted by Madias
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2018 at 8:55 am


Since when is $400K a year not sufficient to afford housing without another $4K a Month "allowance" ?
My family and I live here on $160K a year and no allowance. Many families do it with less.
Why does he need a housing allowance with that kind of salary ?

No wonder the city is broke.
And what a pension liability nightmare this guy us going to be!

24 people like this
Posted by midtown senior
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2018 at 11:18 am

midtown senior is a registered user.

With Keene gone, maybe we'll have someone who LISTENS to us on neighborhood concerns such as the terrible mess on Ross Road, Arastradero, etc.

17 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

I was underwhelmed with Mr. Shikada's inaction and understanding during the sad episode where the Mime Troupe was unable to appear last year because of a bone-headed policy. Cities all over the Bay Area permit the Mime Troupe to pass cans after performances for voluntary donations. Only Palo Alto refused to let them do this, resulting in their not coming last year.

Despite a year having gone by in which to do it, they couldn't get a paragraph in the city charter rewritten to permit them to perform and ask for VOLUNTARY donations after the show.

Apparently there will be a performance at Cubberley, but it won't be like Mitchell Park.

2 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 26, 2018 at 6:00 pm

The $4K is only until he moves his own residence to Palo Alto. It is not open-ended.

3 people like this
Posted by Gloria
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 27, 2018 at 7:13 am

Great choice! Ed has consistently impressed us with his professionalism, kindness, and dedication to serving the community. Excited to see what he can do in his new role!

10 people like this
Posted by member
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 28, 2018 at 10:38 am

I wonder if the City will hire a real Utilities head now.

9 people like this
Posted by The beat goes on
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2018 at 1:52 pm

Current development-advocate City Manager Keene was highly recommended by his predecessor and look at what we got.
This new fellow is also recommended by development-advocate Keene, with whom he has worked for years.
Can't expect much change.

Like this comment
Posted by Cathy M.
a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2018 at 12:28 pm

Great choice! Ed was the City of San Jose, City Manager, in 2014 and did a fabulous job. He accomplished more in one year than most City Managers do in 5 years. I was impressed with how he created collaborative, interdepartmental initiatives related to workforce support and development. Employees/Managers/Labor worked on teams together such as branding, recruitment, on-boarding, training, succession planning, hiring, workforce environment and performance management. Ed is a friendly, honest, collaborative and smart leader. Palo Alto is lucky to have him as their City Manager!

20 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 4, 2018 at 12:39 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Given recent issues with dealing with CPAU staff re weird utilities bills, I'm not so sure about that. Even running a $19,500,000 surplus, CPAU customer service staff are defending their inability to pull up customer records or past records of service calls because their software doesn't allow it. Maybe they could use some of that software to update their softeware??

One odd claim is that they can't access records because calls went to Police Dispatch even though the number called is CPAU's. One has to resort to NextDoor to get decent advice and when asked about programs described by residents on NextDoor, customer service staff can't explain why 4 people neglected to tell complainants about free county water leak audits that might have been helpful.

We shouldn't have to spend months trying to get help on why, for example, water bills keep soaring by $300 a month and then $100 more the next month.

9 people like this
Posted by StarSpring
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 5, 2018 at 1:19 pm

StarSpring is a registered user.

Let's hope he starts off on the right foot by cancelling the Bicycle Boulevard project and any other fiscally irresponsible projects currently "planned" in this City.

Like this comment
Posted by I like the bike boulevard projects
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 6, 2018 at 5:42 pm

I like the bike boulevard projects is a registered user.

I like the bike boulevard projects. I think it would be a mistake to "cancel" them. Our government serves many constituencies with many diverse interests. Many people support the bike boulevard projects--as we saw at the recent well-attended community meeting on this subject.

8 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 6, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

There are all types of bike boulevards, Bryant is fine. Narrowing the roads so that vehicles can't safely make their turns and sticking bollards all over so they back up traffic and create unnecessary and dangerous gridlock aren't.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe Rolfe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 21, 2018 at 9:16 pm

Joe Rolfe is a registered user.

Why is it that no one with a negative comment on this matter posted with their real name. It seems to me that if a comment is worth posting, you should own it.

5 people like this
Posted by Anonymous poster
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 27, 2018 at 3:14 pm

Rolfe's innocent question is deceptively innocent.
This is a small community and it is a problem to criticize the government using your own name, you will be marked.

People are criticizing their _government_ which is a good thing. Our city leaders have moved far away from acting in the interests of its citizens. It is hardly news to say the city is controlled by development interests.
Is that OK with you?

You use your name but you offer no content.

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