A Familiar Face to Be Interim City Manager

In the hunt for an immediate replacement for John Schaefer, who is retiring as city manager at the end of July, members of the City Council found someone who is familiar with a wide range of city operations. And close at hand.
Cindy Collins, who served in several roles with San Marino city government from 2001 to 2011, including assistant manager, last week was named interim city manager. Collins had circled back to San Marino at the start of this year, filling in as director of the Recreation Department on an interim basis, and was on board throughout the fiscal year budget process this spring.
“She has all the skills,” said Mayor Dr. Allan Yung. “She’s been here for many years, she knows the city and she’s a very efficient administrator.”
Collins certainly has a broad range of experiences in the administration of this city. During her previous 10 years here, she presided over the transfer of recreation services from a joint arrangement with the school district to the sole province of the city, and while assistant city manager oversaw public works, human resources, recreation and the library (when the new Crowell Public Library opened in January 2008).
Collins said she feels “very blessed and very excited that I get to take on this role.”
“When I left San Marino,” she continued, “it was a heart-wrenching time for me, because I loved my job, I loved working with Matt (Ballantyne, then city manager). I loved working with the community of San Marino. It was my home community — and I’ve worked for seven cities. It was the values of the community, just the nature of the people here.”
Collins, a Fullerton resident, left all of that because of the tug of more pressing responsibilities at home, she said. Her daughter, Caroline, was in middle school, and Mom was spending so many nights at meetings and other functions that she felt she was missing out on some vital parenting years. So Collins retired at age 53 — “the best decision I ever made,” she says — and contented herself working in interim administrative jobs for cities around Southern California.
“She commands a lot of respect from folks just because she is fair,” said Ballantyne, now the city manager in Chino. “She was a great leader when I was there. She was my right-hand person.”
Schaefer also praised Collins’ traits, saying, “I think that Cindy is very intuitive; she has a very good sense. She’s very good with numbers: She hand-calculates everything — that’s old school but very thorough. She has a high degree of credibility with staff and the community.”
In light of all this, Yung said he’d welcome Collins seeking the permanent job, but that the city will nonetheless begin a search for candidates to succeed Schaefer. He added that he “definitely” would like to have someone on board by the end of the year. The city’s customary summer slowdown could impact that timetable, however. Two councilmen were absent from last week’s meeting. Two different councilmen will be missing for the meeting of July 13. And that body goes on hiatus for the month of August, with no regularly scheduled meetings.
Collins said it would be “presumptuous” for her to discuss being a candidate for the permanent job. Interim assignments typically last six months, she added, “which allows a council to decide: Where do they want to take the city?”
She cited some matters of transition in San Marino, including a new public works director coming aboard, the shifted responsibilities of Assistant City Manager Lucy Garcia, an ad hoc advisory committee about to issue its management audit, and the city’s labor wranglings with the Fire Department. Another, obviously, is the impending departure of Schaefer.
“I think it’s really important for an organization to smooth out and stabilize,” Collins said.
She seems more than willing to play a role in that process, saying, “I’m not an over-reactor. I think things through. I listen carefully to what people say. I try to hear what’s beyond the words — sometimes they’re telling you one thing but underneath it you’re sensing something totally different. I try to absorb all of that, along with creating a vision of where we’re going and creating a simple path.
“I like to uncomplicate things.”

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