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Why are good people leaving Menlo Park City Hall?

Original post made by Long Time Menlo Man, Menlo Park: Downtown, on Nov 2, 2013

In the last 4-5 years these people have left.
Planning Engineer
Community Development Director
and before that
Community Development asst. director
Public Works Director
2 Police Chiefs
2 Police Commanders
Finance Director (he retired)
2 City Managers (1 retired)
I'm sure there are more but that seems like lot for Menlo Park.

Why are these people leaving?

Comments (6)

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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Nov 5, 2013 at 2:08 pm

There are, I am sure, multiple reasons for this attrition, just as there is at the company I work for or you work for. However, I do think there are two reasons that are involved more often than others. First, competitive opportunities. An excellent example of this is the recent departure (a huge loss for the City, of an extremely bright, energetic and talented young Senior Planner who, to her good fortune, was recruited by a major high tech firm. The second common reason, which represents the darker side of the issue, is the horrible treatment the very talented staff of Menlo Park get at the hands of both members of the public and those serving on the some of the commissions(ie. Transportation). All you need to do is read posts on this forum and you'll see a constant flow of criticism claiming that staff are incompetent or are either serving special interests or themselves. MP will continue to lose good people and fail to attract new good ones until it begins to respect the good, well trained people they have.

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Posted by Long Time Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm

I know I haven't listed them all but it seems like most of the top layer of management are seeking bigger $$$ elsewhere. Is this what has happened to MP? We are now the training ground for other municipalities? We train them then let neighboring cities entice them away? I remember when MP was THE small city to work for. How sad.

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Posted by Long Time Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm

At the coffee shop this morning, I heard 10 of the closest 20 people working with the city manager, have been hired within the last year. If that doesn't say something about brain drain, I don't what does! Why are our veteran staff leaving?

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Posted by Out of the loop
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 12, 2013 at 8:00 am

A few notes: The Public Works Directory (a very good man) probably left because he was passed over for the City Manager job. One of the city managers left to take a promotion and huge salary increase working as the County Manager. The other, as you note, retired.

Linda Heineck is still the Community Development (read: Planning) Director and she is still with the city and has been for decades. Likewise with Justin Murphy the number two man in Community Development (read:Planning)

I suspect you are talking about the former BUSINESS Development Director(s). The Biz Dev positions were always a joke that cost local taxpayers about ~$.3M annually and brought nothing to the city. The best anecdote describing this is the story about how one former Biz Dev manager (along with former council member Mickie Winkler) tried to take credit for "attracting" the Stanford Rosewood Hotel. Winkler was busted during her failed re-election bid (2004) when opponents distributed an article from the San Jose Mercury documenting how Menlo Park officials, including Winkler and the then Biz Dev manager all admitted that they were completely clueless and that the submission of the Rosewood Hotel project was a complete surprise to them. The biz dev director was still taking credit years later, after the hotel got built (2008).

Menlo Park should cheer the loss of the Biz Dev jobs.

But I digress. In noting that many of those listed RETIRED you may be missing the key structural issue: City employee pensions are determined by an employee's highest three (3) years of salary. It is now commonplace for top management positions, particularly police chief, to be a three year stop, where senior managers, (a)get promoted, (b) get a nice salary bump, (c) retire in place for three years, and then (d)leave to collect their fattened PERS pensions now based on their final last three years of salary. Some even move to smaller, more low key communities are much lower salary and stress.

It happens all the time. Few senior managers, 55 and over, who get promoted to top spots, stay for more than three years.

This is really a non-observation you make here

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Posted by no surprise
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 12, 2013 at 8:51 am

Why the surprise? Menlo Park, as a fairly small town, has always been a place to begin a career and end a career. The younger ones look for bigger jobs and bigger salaries, and those near retirement negotiate a similar salary they had at a bigger job and bigger city and collect the benefits in a few years when they retire.
What's wrong with this? IMO the main thing is that Menlo Park doesn't negotiate salaries comparable to the job. The rest should be no surprise and we just ought to plan around this phenomenon.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Why would anyone stay? How many times are you going to listen to people driving new Teslas complain about city salaries before you decide to take a job where you aren't driving a used Toyota. Just look at the recent Fire District election. Yes, I know they are independent of the city. But the same thing happens with the city.

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