New City Manager Hired, Starts Oct. 16

Marcella Marlowe
Marcella Marlowe

By a 3-1 vote, the contract to hire Marcella Marlowe as San Marino’s new city manager was approved at the City Council’s morning meeting last Friday.
Marlowe, who was assistant city manager for nearby San Gabriel, officially begins work on Oct. 16.
“We’ll start a transition process that will last over the next month,” said interim City Manager Cindy Collins in an interview this week. “I’ll be available as she needs me once she arrives.”
Collins, who has served her role since August 2016, is under contract through Oct. 31 and will work with Marlowe through that point, she said. Friday’s contract approval ends a journey that began in June 2016 with the retirement of then-City Manager John Schaefer, whom Collins was appointed to temporarily replace.
“I’ve talked to her on the phone and she’s very excited to come here,” said Collins, who added she participated little in the vetting and interview process. “I think it’ll be a freshness to the organization.”
Marlowe was selected from an initial pool of about 40 candidates, which was then narrowed down to eight. Those eight were interviewed by the full City Council and also three city managers from nearby cities — Matt Ballantyne from Chino, Rob Wishner from Walnut and Dominic Lazzaretto from Arcadia. Ballantyne and Wishner both previously were city managers for San Marino.
From there, four finalists were identified and, for the second interview, were tasked by the City Council to take 30 minutes to submit written responses to two city-related problems. Marlowe emerged the preferred candidate from a pool that included applicants from Minnesota, New Mexico and Arizona.
“This is really a new direction for the city because we have not had a city manager that has been employed from outside the city for a substantial period of time,” Councilman Steve Talt said Friday. “In looking at finding a preferred direction for the city, we wanted someone who could bring in other experience to take a look at whether we’re effectively running the city. I feel confident that she understands San Marino and yet will bring a new understanding and new ideas to a city as we walk through this transition that we’ve been going through.”
Marlowe earned all three of her degrees — a bachelor’s in classical Greek civilization and both a master’s and doctorate in political science — from USC. Her city government résumé included a two-year stint in Phoenix before she returned to Southern California to work for Calabasas. Before joining San Gabriel in 2011, Marlowe was human resources manager for Duarte. She also is an adjunct associate professor at USC and the University of La Verne.
Councilman Dr. Allan Yung cast the opposing vote for Marlowe’s contract (Councilman Dr. Steven Huang was absent from this meeting), a decision he said was based not on his opinion of Marlowe herself, but rather the compensation being offered to what he described as a “junior city manager.”
“Never having experience as a city manager, I was hoping we could hire her for a more reasonable price,” Yung said at the meeting. “Our offering package was kind of on the high side compared with the cities around us.”
Marlowe’s two-year contract includes a $192,500 annual salary, 120 hours of sick leave, 100 hours of vacation, 80 hours of administrative leave, a $700 vehicle allowance and a $300 technology allowance, among other benefits. Yung said he estimated the value of Marlowe’s contract at $225,000, not including her pension benefits.
“We are very generous,” Yung said, emphasizing his disagreement was more about value than job performance. “There’s no right or wrong. I’m just saying we’re very generous.”
Talt disagreed, arguing that Marlowe’s deferred compensation rate and California Public Employees Retirement System package were preferable to those of Schaefer’s contract.
“I think we’re getting a deal with respect to John’s agreement,” he said. “Our overall cost is actually probably substantially less in the long run than Schaefer ever had.”
Collins’ contracted annual salary is $185,000, she said Friday, and Schaefer’s was $195,000, as reported by City Attorney Steven Flower. The job listing for city manager advertised a salary range between $180,000 and $200,000.
Candidates were identified with the assistance of CPS HR Consulting, a Sacramento-based firm hired in March for $23,000 as the lowest bidder for manager consulting services.
“We looked for someone we can trust,” Mayor Dr. Richard Sun said Friday. “We did our very best in selecting someone who can fit into San Marino and who can work the best for our community.”

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