Almanac

News - July 20, 2011

Kent Steffens leaves top Menlo Park post

by Sandy Brundage

Menlo Park finds itself once again considering a question it's heard all too often in recent months — how to fill a vacancy in the upper echelon of city management. The imminent departure of Menlo Park Public Works Director Kent Steffens, who also serves as deputy city manager, for a position as public works director in Sunnyvale leaves his current employer scrambling for a replacement.

During his 12 years with Menlo Park, Mr. Steffens directed public works and served as interim city manager and interim assistant city manager. His last day with the city will be July 29.

City Manager Glen Rojas — who retired from his own position on July 15, but returns as a contractor for up to six months — said it's too soon to know whether the public works position will be filled internally or externally.

"My first order of business will be to determine how best to fill the position on an interim basis," he said. "We have very capable managers that could fill the position on an interim basis."

In addition to ongoing public works projects, the timing of when the city's new two-tier pension system takes effect following upcoming labor negotiations is another factor in how Menlo Park will fill the position, according to Mr. Rojas.

Describing Mr. Steffens as an "extremely talented manager," he praised his colleague's ability to balance engineering skills with the capacity to communicate that information to all levels of the organization and community.

"(Kent) has a great opportunity going to Sunnyvale, which is a larger city with a great reputation, and I believe he will be very successful in his new position," said Mr. Rojas. "Our loss is Sunnyvale's gain."

Starting Aug. 1 in Sunnyvale, Mr. Steffens will oversee some 180 employees and have oversight of streets, engineering, and parks and project management, according to City Manager Gary Luebbers.

Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline echoed the praise of a man often caught in the middle of controversial issues such as traffic calming, park maintenance, and high-speed rail. The mayor noted that Mr. Steffens literally knew where all the bones were buried and the wires and the sewers and the pipes.

"I am one of his biggest fans," Mr. Cline said. "He caught a lot of heat, but he was always a professional. His knowledge of our city's infrastructure was second to none."

Mr. Steffens was not immediately available for comment.

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