By Sandy Brundage
The hunt for a new city manager in Menlo Park is on. Current manager Glen Rojas announced last week that he is retiring, effective July 15.
Mr. Rojas told the Almanac that it was a tough decision, but he had been considering the move for a while.
Below is the text of an email he sent to employees, City Council members, and the city attorney on March 22:
After careful consideration and consultation with my family I have decided to retire effective July 15, 2011. This decision was not an easy one considering that I have had an exciting and challenging 37-year public service career which includes my experiences working with such a talented group of employees here in Menlo Park.
The diversity of issues that we find in public service cannot be duplicated in the private sector. We could not meet these challenges without you, the dedicated and hard-working employees that make Menlo Park a great place to live and work.
As an organization we have many challenging projects that are important to our future which requires that over the next few months that I work with the City Council and staff to ensure a smooth transition.
Over the next few months I hope to be able to express my appreciation to as many of you as possible for all you do to make Menlo Park the quality City it is."
Mr. Rojas listed working with other city employees and philanthropist John Arrillaga, the major private donor to the city's new gymnasium and recreation center, as high points of his four years with Menlo Park, along with getting the downtown specific plan closer to completion.
With the highs come some lows, of course. "We haven't gotten to the point where we have the full trust of some segments of the community," Mr. Rojas said. "Surveys say the average resident is satisfied with our services, but there's a smaller segment that for whatever reason just doesn't trust us. That's frustrating."
He described the council's reaction to his announcement as positive and gracious.
Mayor Rich Cline attributed the decision to Mr. Rojas' desire for more family time. "He has been in the local government job a long time. In this instance I think he feels it is time and that is all," he said.
The mayor added that the job of city manager, as well as council, is full of challenges and potential controversy, and that nothing happening currently differs from what people in those positions have faced during past years.
City staff and the council will meet during upcoming weeks to decide whether to promote from within or recruit outside Menlo Park for a new city manager.
What will Mr. Rojas do with all that free time, particularly on Tuesday nights when he no longer has to sit through council meetings past midnight? Some teaching, he said, working with his church, and hanging out with his grandchildren.
He plans to remain in Menlo Park, he said. As for the $1.2 million loan he received from the city to buy a home in Menlo Park upon being hired in 2007, Mr. Rojas said he has two years to pay off the balance — approximately $41,500 — and may either refinance or sell the house.
Mr. Rojas currently makes $224,500, according to a state database, and for a pension, will get 2.7 percent of his highest annual salary averaged over three years, times the number of years he's participated in the state's retirement fund up to 30 years.
The payout for accumulated leave time upon retiring will be worked out closer to July. "It depends on how much leave time I have at that point. I have options to consider regarding leave time so I will make those final decisions in a couple of months," Mr. Rojas said.
His replacement may be hired under the same "2.7 percent at 55" pension formula despite the passage of Measure L in November. The measure raised the minimum retirement age for new public employees, excluding police officers, by five years to 60, and also decreased their maximum pension benefits by 0.7 percentage points, to 2 percent of their highest annual salary averaged over three years.
But those changes have yet to be implemented, thanks to ongoing contracts with public employee unions such as the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). City Attorney Bill McClure said that even if the new manager is hired from outside the city, the existing pension formula remains in effect until the current contract with AFSCME expires in October.