2022 City Council candidates answer Sun questions

Question 2: Would you consider changing the city management?

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Seal Beach City candidates were limited to 400 words for their answers.

The question was posted on the Sun website and Facebook, and emailed to each of the 10 candidates. Candidates were notified by phone that the question had been sent.

If a candidate did not answer, the Sun left a voicemail. In two instances, a candidate’s line was busy and those candidates were notified by text.

Question 2: Would you consider changing the city management?

District One

Chris DeSanto

Christopher DeSanto

Thank you so much for asking this very important question. As with any organization, the tone is set from the top. From a strategic view down to the day-to-day functions, management sets the priorities and direction of their teams. They control, and are responsible for, deliverables, and execution of those deliverables. Additionally, they set the cultural values and norms in which the organization functions.

To answer the question directly, all options would be on the table. That said, should I be fortunate enough to be elected, and as I do with any company I’ve newly joined, I would follow the Hippocratic oath – first, to do no harm. Over time, I would get to know management and personnel, and assess their skill set, strengths and cultural fit to the organization and our residents. Who we have servicing our residents should be reflective of our city’s morals, values and ethics.

After allowing an introductory period, action then can start being taken. There are four options with any personnel decision: retain, remedy, transfer, replacement – in that order. As someone who has terminated a teammate before, I am highly sensitive to the impact termination can have on one’s life – both from a financial and mental health perspective.

First, and ideally, we have personnel that already reflect our city’s values. Retaining is the easiest and best option. However, if we find that is not the case, our second course of action – remediation would begin. An objective performance review given, with a detailed plan on how the individual(s) could realign and get them to where we need them to be. Third, it could be that the individual isn’t in the right role, and should be working in another capacity. Their job function could be misaligned with their skills and strengths. Finally, if all previous steps do not yield an acceptable outcome, termination and replacement would begin.

In closing, my primary concern is to ensure the people servicing the city’s residents are executing their wishes with the utmost standard of care and in a manner befitting the same. While changing management and other personnel is not my first option, it is not one I would be afraid to use.

Thank you so much again!


Joe Kalmick

Joe Kalmick

When I was elected to the City Council some four years ago I had no expectations of what my working relationship with our City Manager and executive staff would be. Since that time I feel that I am in a position to render an objective opinion regarding the City Manager’s performance, and working relationship with myself and my Council colleagues.

We have just gone through the most challenging time in our City’s history. During this time, with many city hall staff trying to work from home and at times being out ill, our City Manager worked to insure that City services continued to be offered, and our facilities continued to operate and were maintained. The status of everything going on was communicated to the council so that we could help inform our residents. While there were some delays in responding back to residents’ phone calls and emails, overall I think it was pretty remarkable how we all got through the Pandemic.

The City Manager has always been available to me, during the working day, after hours at night, or on weekends. I have always had a phone call, email, or text message returned in a timely manner.

I believe that even in the face of losing some key members of her executive staff for various reasons, she has hired very qualified folks in those positions.

Each year the City Council participates in a third party evaluation of the City Manager’s performance, with each councilmember being interviewed. The results are shared with the City Manager, and criticisms and suggestions for improvement are made. In my time on the Council, I have observed that the criticisms and suggestions for improvement have been taken seriously and have shown positive results by taking action, such as improving transparency and communication with our residents by publishing on our website what has been an internal newsletter for Staff and the Council.

Our City has come through a chaotic past three years, our budget has been balanced, we are back to working on some projects that had to be put off, we have a highly effective and respected Police Department, and we are working hard to comply with new state laws and mandates.

Much of this success has to be credited to an effective City Manager, and therefore, I see no reason to make a change.

Joe Kalmick

Gregg Barton

Gregg Barton

As a City Council member, I would absolutely change City Management, a change we all recognize is needed. Much of my plan for changing how our city runs is simple: we need to use our available funding so we live in a safer place that residents are proud to call home.

Measure BB, mentioned last week by several other candidates, was passed in November 2018. This is the 1 percent general sales tax I referred to last week. Not every resident was in favor of passage and more than 40 percent of voters marked No on their ballot. It did pass with about 58 percent in favor.  Now it is time for City management to honor the intent of BB.

So, what next? The money is already there, it just needs to be applied in the manner promised.  This sales tax funding was intended to offset our significant budget cuts, so we can maintain essential services for our city. We absolutely need more community police patrols, so our residents are safe and feel safe.

These funds were also meant to ensure we keep up with paramedic services, fire protection, marine safety and lifeguards, school safety, 9-1-1 response times and other essential services we need.

The use of these funds is about ensuring we continue to have a great place to live and work. This sales tax was meant to raise about $5 million each year, to be spent in Seal Beach only. Increases in homelessness and crime mean we need more boots on the streets so we can maintain our level of safety. If more officers are needed to stay safe, then we need to hire more, but part of the change in City management I would like to see is to ensure the police we do have are visible and patrolling, not pushing paper at headquarters.

Within a year, I’d expect a huge impact from increased policing.  We owe this to the voter who trusted City management and  expected the funds to go for increased police visibility. As a side note, I want to say that several long-time residents approached me to request that I run. This is humbling for me and I believe we need to return to putting residents first, take care of residents’ needs and keep our residents safe.

I ask for your vote of confidence.

Gregg Barton

District Three

Stephanie Wade

Stephanie Wade

Seal Beach residents should expect greater accountability and transparency from all city officials, whether elected or appointed. The council-manager form of government can only work when the council members and their constituents have confidence in the judgment and skill of their manager. I don’t have that confidence in our current city management and neither do many of the people in the third district.

Voters frequently and without prompting, bring up the name of our City Manager; it’s never positive. An online petition demanding her removal attracted 279 signatures. Many of those signers are people I know and respect as leaders in our community, like former Mayor Paul Yost, M.D., Rick Foster, and Carla Watson. In five years working professionally with cities across Orange County, I’ve never seen anything like the antipathy that Seal Beach residents have for our City Manager.

Personally, I’m troubled by our city manager’s history of issuing no-bid contracts to close allies. Perhaps, in eleven years as City Manager, she has become too comfortable with running the city in a less than transparent or accountable manner.

While I’m concerned that city council members and constituents lack confidence in our current city manager, municipal code requires the council to wait at least 90 days after any city council election before removing the city manager. I propose that we use the first 90 days of the 2023 session to review the performance of our current city manager and to research options for her replacement. If, at the end of 90 days, there are three or more votes for new leadership, we can act quickly to bring in a more qualified individual.

I have no business interests or friends who are likely to have contracts with our city. If I ever develop such a relationship or discover any potential conflict of interest, I will make that information public and withdraw from any decisions for which I might be accused of partiality; I’ll demand the same of my fellow councilmembers and all city workers.

Fred Macksoud

Frank Macksoud

My approach to city government is that cooperation and fairness with managers and employees is the best way to provide needed city services. My expectation is that city employees will reciprocate with this team approach to governing.

The question today is whether I would  consider changing the city management.  I assure District 3 voters that I will not hesitate to  vote to change management if the circumstances warrant such action.  This would be, of course, the last resort and only if prior diligent effort on my part and that of the other Councilmembers fail to remedy the proved performance deficits that are harming the City.

The primary goal of a city councilmember is to establish the policies and priorities that would benefit the residents of their District and the City as a whole.  This  hopefully ensures that city services are provided in an effective and efficient manner.  The councilmember, along with other councilmembers, adopt an annual city budget and appropriate the funds necessary to provide the services to  District 3 and the City’s other residents, businesses and visitors.

I understand that these duties are demanding and require a lot of team leadership and interaction with various Departments within the City, as well as consultation with other councilmembers.  If you vote for me I assure you that I will master the most efficient way to  govern.  Efficiency is paramount in our current inflationary environment and fiscal conservatism is crucial.

The City Manager, appointed by the Council, is our administrative officer.  The Manager implements the policies and priorities established by the Council within the confines of the Council’s budget.  The Manager appoints the City’s department directors, submits the annual budget for the Council’s consideration, and implements the  Council’s adopted budget.

The Manager is therefore the principal resource to determine whether the Council’s goals are implemented.

I have observed our current City Manager, Jill Ingram, interact with the Council at the bimonthly Council meetings and have attended the Council Candidate Orientation, at which she introduced her management team.  They in turn presented to  us what they have accomplished and hope to accomplish after the new Board takes office.

I strongly believe that City Manager Ingram and her team are doing outstanding work and no replacement of her or her team is foreseeable.  The proof is in the pudding.  If that work continues, no city management changes are necessary.

Lisa Landau

Lisa Landau

I would consider changing city management if it were determined that a change is needed.

I am looking forward to reviewing all aspects of our city government to be sure that what we have in place is helpful to our businesses and residents as well as efficient.  Of course, all organizations can be improved.

As a businesswoman and accountant, I look forward to using my skills to analyze all the business practices at City Hall. I have always been a firm believer that the team is only as good as its leader.  Therefore, we would start at the top and work our way down to every department.

There would be performance reviews of employees, reviews of decisions made, and what those outcomes were.

There would be a review of contracts entered into, a review of outside consultants that were hired and the necessity of those consultants, and if the services they provided were value-added. There would be a review of monies spent and where those funds were allocated to.

I would look at projects that seem to be stalled and determine what is causing the holdup and determine why these projects have not been resolved in a timely manner. Based on the findings the appropriate course of action would be taken.

I am not afraid to make changes, if necessary. I have no intention of just slashing and burning without cause. We need to be respectful and diligent in this process to ensure that moving forward we have the best management team in place. We want to make sure we are in the best place possible at the end of the day.

Together, with strong management, a strong council, and the support of the community, we will make Seal Beach stronger and better than ever.

District Five

Nathan Steele

Nathan Steele

“In a word, “No”.  We have a great team doing a great job.  Why would we change any of them?

“I worked for over 20 years consulting and training Fortune 500 companies.  There is an experiential/cultural value that goes with people who have worked for you over time.  Their value goes up.  In my view, getting rid of any of our key people is unnecessary and expensive.

“I was only one of 2 City Council candidates to attend the entire Planning Session held on September 22 from beginning to end.  I watched our city management team work well with City Council.  The challenges and priorities of the city were identified and passed, giving clear direction from the Council to City Management.

“In my personal observation, I am as impressed with them as I have been with any team I’ve worked with from Microsoft to IBM.   They are smart, talented, dedicated professionals working through challenging circumstances for the good of the city.”

Jonathan Rich

Jonathan Rich

Seal Beach uses the Council-Manager form of government. The voters are at the top of the city’s organizational chart; they choose the elected officials whom they believe will best carry out their will and steer the city in the right direction. The elected city council is chaired by the mayor and is charged with carrying out the will of the people.  The city manager and the staff that she supervises are executives, implementing council decisions.

Newly elected officials sometimes feel the need to make a “clean sweep,” discharging existing staff and installing new administration. This radical action is done under the pretense of improving staff quality or eliminating corruption. Ironically, replacing staff can have a less noble intent – to have personnel who are loyal to the politician or even to pay back individuals who are owed a favor. Ironically, replacing key personnel can sometimes signal the start, not the end, of corruption.

In neighboring Long Beach, the mayoral campaign budget is running into seven figures. This makes a modest, self-financed campaign impractical, meaning that candidates need to seek support and give promises to special interests.  In a small town such as Seal Beach, candidates can remain independent, not needing to seek out contributions or special interest support. This opens the way for true democracy. Elected officials are installed because of their platform and because they reflect the will of the people; city administrators are chosen for their ability to implement policy without personal agendas. In a city such as Seal Beach, I can bring my message to you directly and have competent and experienced city administrators implement the electorate’s desires, as expressed through the council. This is how democracy functions best.

In my meetings and contacts with city administrators, I have found them to be hard working, knowledgeable professionals. When interacting with candidates, they walk a fine line, providing information and guidance, while not supporting one candidate over another. Managers of this caliber are difficult to attract and retain. Their institutional knowledge is irreplaceable.

I am grateful for the professionalism of Seal Beach city managers. Having hired and supervised staff myself, I understand that good people are an asset not to be taken lightly. While I would not hesitate to discharge anyone acting corruptly or failing to competently perform their job, I am happy to say that I see no current need for city management change.

Mariann J. Klinger

Mariann Klinger

As a planning commissioner for the past seven years, I can attest to the hard work and expertise of staffers, who keep the commission in tune with policies and council decisions that support our votes. Although in a small city they are few, Seal Beach is fortunate to have many knowledgeable long-term staffers. While they may be stretched thin at times, they make themselves readily available to commissioners to discuss zoning matters, city agencies and programs.

At a recent city budget meeting, the staff kept matters moving smoothly, supporting the council efforts to attain a balanced budget. If elected, I would be comfortable depending on the city’s staff to continue implementing the council’s decisions.

Some years ago a former mayor told a San Francisco audience “a great city is one where people want to go out of their homes” to enjoy public space. A great city, he added, “believes human beings are more important than cars.”

This statement could easily speak of Seal Beach. On any day, a walk down Main Street will be accompanied by the sounds of laughter and conversation as people enjoy each other’s company, a meal at a sidewalk cafe, a meeting on the street, or passing a stranger and saying hello. At the end of the street, walkers can choose the option to walk the pier, or the beach or simply sit on a park bench and bask in an ocean view.

A balanced budget, pleasant public space, an ocean view, sounds pretty great.

Michael McGrorty

Michael McGrorty

If by this you mean the structure of city management, I would say, no.  The ‘council-manager’ form of municipal government has proven to be beneficial in smaller towns throughout the state, and its replacement with an elected mayor as both professional administrator and leader of the city council would be a costly and risky path for Seal Beach to take.

Small towns use the council-manager form in order to operate because it is unlikely that an appointed member of the city council, or an elected mayor, could possess the time and expertise to adequately supervise the operations of a city.  Hiring a professional is the best step to take, and has worked well for Seal Beach.  One advantage is that the hired manager can, if necessary, be terminated for cause by the council if deemed necessary.  The alternative would be a separately-elected mayor whose experience would not likely match the day-to-day needs of the city, and whose decisions would be subject to less review than any appointed city manager.  For that matter, an elected mayor would not be required to possess any degree of professional expertise in city government whatever, a situation which would greatly strain the staff of every department.

On the other hand, I would definitely support an arrangement of management resources to reflect the reality of our town’s structure and needs.  First, I’d like to see a department created to focus on the very different community that is Leisure World.  That area is so vastly different in terms of age, income, disability, and other needs from the remainder of the city that it calls for a separate type of attention altogether.

Apart from that, I would seek a correction of the mapping of city council districts to reflect the actual population of Leisure World, which has obviously been severely undercounted, a mistake which results in the effective disenfranchisement of a large proportion of that community.

The city is happy to include Leisure World’s 9,500-plus residents in its total population, but assigns a far lesser number for purposes of assigning council districts.

For this reason, Leisure World, which should have two stand-along council members, must share one with another district.  Whether intentional or accidental, this act deprives our population of the power of its own, undiluted voice.