Shikada welcomed as Palo Alto's next city manager

City Council formally hires policy veteran to succeed James Keene

The Palo Alto City Council set the stage on Monday for a leadership change at City Hall when it approved a contract with the city's next city manager, Ed Shikada.

Shikada, a former transportation executive who had previously worked as the city manager of San Jose, is the hand-picked and council-approved successor to James Keene, who is poised to retire at the end of the year after 10 years in City Hall's top position. Shikada's new contract is effective Dec. 20, or on the date of Keene's retirement, whichever comes sooner.

Under the terms of the contract, which the council approved Monday, Shikada will receive a salary of $356,000, as well as temporary housing assistance of $4,000 per month until he obtains a primary residence within city limits. In addition, the city will contribute $18,500 annually into Shikada's retirement plan.

In hiring Shikada as the next city manager, the council opted to avoid the city's typical recruiting process, which usually involves a nationwide search, a selection of finalists and opportunities for the public to weigh in. Instead, council members opted to promote Shikada, a versatile veteran policymaker who has a background in transportation, engineering and public works and currently serves as both an assistant city manager and the general manager of utilities.

The council had held two closed sessions to discuss the next city manager before announcing in June that it planned to choose Shikada. At that time, the city was still finalizing the terms of the employment agreement. The council formally adopted the agreement on Monday.

"He's the only person I know who can wear like 12 hats at the same time," Councilman Greg Scharff said shortly before the unanimous vote to hire Shikada. "You meet other utility directors who are city managers -- they are city managers of towns with like 3,000 people and their utility department is tiny.

"Ed has really been the assistant city manager and he runs the Utilities Department -- that's an amazing feat."

While all nine council members agreed that Shikada is the right person for the job, Councilman Greg Tanaka voted against Shikada's employment contract. He argued that the contract should reflect a correlation between the city manager's performance and the city's. As such, Tanaka argued, the compensation terms should include both a fixed and a variable component.

Tanaka said he believes it important to "make sure that the city manager is aligned to the city's interest." Tying the top executive's compensation to the city's performance ensures that the person making decisions actually has a stake in what's going on, Tanaka said.

His proposal did not win any supporters, however, and the council swiftly approved the employment contract.

Mayor Liz Kniss, who made the motion to hire Shikada, acknowledged that the search for a city manager was "compacted" but said she was confident that the city made the right choice.

"As we talked to recruiters, each would say, 'You have the best city manager already in your building,'" Kniss said.

Much like the recruiting process, the council's public hearing on what is one of its most critical decisions was relatively brief. Most council members used their comment period to commend Shikada for his three years of service -- include the past two in dual roles -- and to congratulate him for taking the top job.

Councilman Tom DuBois said he has found Shikada to be "very thoughtful, data driven and engaged with the community." He also predicted that Shikada will be particularly well-suited to help the city advance its infrastructure plan, which includes a new police headquarters, two parking garages and a new bridge over U.S. Highway 101.

Councilwoman Karen Holman also said she is looking forward to working with Shikada.

"I think you know what you're getting into," Holman said. "You know the community; you know the inner workings of City Hall."

Councilman Adrian Fine urged Shikada not to be shy about "putting us in our place."

"I think it's extraordinarily important to get feedback from staff, from you, about where we can have our biggest impacts and where we're missing things," Fine said.

Immediately after the vote, Shikada thanked the council members for their words of encouragement and said he looks forward to "the next chapter."

"I can give you complete confidence that you will have my full dedication to the council and to the community going forward," Shikada said.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


8 people like this
Posted by Tanaka’s comments
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 21, 2018 at 8:46 am

Tanaka’s comments sound reasonable to the uninformed, however, what he suggests is not market and no prospective city manager at the top of his profession would accept this pay structure. There are also legal issues around large bonuses and pension spiking. In short Tanaka should know that his comments and motion was completely unworkable and that is why he got no support from any of his colleagues.

33 people like this
Posted by Just Another Taxpayer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 21, 2018 at 9:19 am

City Managers are overpaid. IMO.

21 people like this
Posted by Put Adrian Fine in his place
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2018 at 10:02 am

[Portion removed.]

The City Manager is supposed to report to the City Council, not the other way around. City Manager Keene appears to think he runs the City and that the City Council should adopt his views, and not that the City Council should set the direction of the City.

Ed Shikada appears to be more interested in listening to the Council and to residents. I'm hopeful that will be borne out over time.

8 people like this
Posted by Support for development
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 21, 2018 at 10:55 am

[Post removed.]

11 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 21, 2018 at 12:29 pm

Dear Mr. Shikada,

We are hearing wonderful things. Let them be true!

Help council make smart, balanced decisions.

Help council spend smart by providing them clear and complete policy analysis.

Focus on value at cost to help us stop hemorrhaging money on lower ROI projects simply because saying no or changing tack mid-course is hard.

Help transparency be the norm across all of our city's projects and processes. Especially big ticket ones, so citizens can smell out rot (whether in administration disfunction or council motives) and adjust accordingly.

Ask your citizens for help if needed. We're cantankerous to be sure, but we show up.

Thank you for brining your integrity and talents to help our city.

Best of luck, for all of our sakes.

7 people like this
Posted by Unaligned
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 21, 2018 at 9:01 pm

I don't like how Keene sucks the city dry. Tying pay to performance seems to make a lot of sense to me. Many other cities like Menlo Park including Palo Alto in the past have variable compensation: Web Link

3 people like this
Posted by desperation
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2018 at 10:45 pm

Tying CEO pay to performance among most large companies now includes clawback provisions after CEO's depart to recapture pay increases in the event of special circumstances,like fraud, misinformation,or even disappointing performance of products on which pay increases were predicated. In the case of Palo Alto, any lawsuits arising from the Ross Road traffic engineering
project,for example, which may result in damages assessed against the City for negligence, in the face of citizen petitions and warnings of dangerous conditions which were ignored should result in a clawback against the departing City Manager and the new City Manager if he continues in the same mode.

The Council talked about challenges facing the City last night - and the bulk of it is from the City's own actions, the staff and Council majority over these past years and that is the real issue
facing the City which it has to correct going forward and there is no sign of it at this point.

Like this comment
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 22, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Sea Reddy is a registered user.

Ed Shikada


You will be great to Palo Alto community!

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

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Couple brings Chinese zongzi to Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 6,015 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 9 comments | 1,825 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 1,572 views

"Better" Dads and "Re-invigorated" Moms: Happier Couples
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,222 views

The kindness of strangers
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 516 views


Register today!

​On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More