Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New city manager gets perks

Angel Jones plans to bring ‘a voice to the vulnerable’

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Gaithersburg has hired a new city manager: Angel Jones of Eugene, Ore.

As the city’s top administrator, Jones will earn a $165,000 annual salary and receive retirement contributions totaling $26,400, including a one-time $8,250 hiring bonus, according to a copy of Jones’ offer letter obtained by The Gazette.

She is also being given a $25,000 relocation bonus and a $600 per month vehicle allowance, bringing her first-year compensation package to $223,600, not including the value of vacation and sick leave.

Jones, 49, will start work on Sept. 29 with 24 days of accrued vacation leave and 10 days of accumulated sick leave under her belt.

The perk-filled package is what it takes to hire a quality candidate these days, city officials said.

Former City Manager David B. Humpton negotiated a $600 per month vehicle allowance several years ago after trading in his city-owned car, said Human Resources Director Margaret Daily. Gaithersburg Police Chief John King, who was set to earn more than $160,000 as assistant chief to the Montgomery County Police Department before joining city police in June 2007, negotiated 20 days vacation and 5 days of sick leave, plus $14,000 deferred compensation which is now included in his current $141,516 salary, Daily said.

City Attorney Lynn Board, who earns $118,300 a year, negotiated 20 days of accrued vacation and 10 days of sick leave when she joined the city full-time in April, Daily said.

City research shows that Alexandria, Va., and the town of Herndon, Va., offer their top administrators a $600 per month vehicle allowance, while Rockville, College Park and Bowie city managers get use of a car, Daily said. Fairfax and Falls Church, Va., offer $6,000 and $4,000 yearly vehicle allowances.

Jones, who has family in the Washington, D.C., area, will be in Gaithersburg in mid-August to find a home, she said Monday. She plans to live in the city, but has not decided where.

‘‘I’m extremely excited, I feel like I’m coming home after nine years – finally,” she said. ‘‘I’m just looking forward to becoming familiar with the priorities of the community ... working with the Gaithersburg team, both elected officials and the staff.”

The city’s top administrative position has been open since October when Humpton retired after 12 years in the role and 25 years of service to the city. About 38 people applied for the position and six were interviewed, including Assistant City Managers Fred Felton and Tony Tomasello.

Jones and Ted Voorhees, assistant city manager of Durham, N.C., were selected as finalists in late June.

‘‘We had much discussion and gathered much information to reach this decision and through the entire process we had many, many good candidates who applied,” said Mayor Sidney A. Katz on Monday. ‘‘Everyone was extremely qualified and had great credentials ... but at the end of the day, the council decided that Angel did the best throughout the interview process and throughout.”

Jones, 49, was the city’s ‘‘top choice,” Katz said. Jones will bring her own leadership style, but he does not expect dramatic changes.

Jones said she did not foresee ‘‘wholesale changes” and plans to spend three to six months getting to know the community, staff and elected officials and doing ‘‘a thorough assessment before I start to change or do something different.”

Visiting in June, Jones underscored ‘‘sustainability initiatives” she developed in Eugene – such as creating affordable housing opportunities, making community services more accessible to minorities, developing after-school youth programs and working with police to improve public safety.

‘‘I think one of the most significant things I bring is a sense of community,” she said in June. ‘‘That’s very important to me, that’s something I’ve taken pride in wherever I’ve been because I believe local government represents true democracy – it’s the level where you can see democracy at its best.”

The city manager oversees nearly 250 employees and an annual operating budget of $52.3 million. The city’s population is more than 60,000.

Jones has served as assistant city manager for Eugene since 2007, and for nine months last year served as city manager pro tempore, overseeing more than 1,500 employees and an operating budget of $442 million. Eugene, population 153,000, is the second largest city in Oregon.

Jones earned a base salary of $149,315 before benefits as Eugene’s acting city manager before the city selected Jon Ruiz, 49, of Fresno, Calif. from among three finalists and 70 applicants as its new city manager in February. A Tuesday article in The Register-Guard, a Eugene daily newspaper, said that Jones chose not to apply for the job, surprising Eugene City Hall observers.

Before becoming Eugene’s assistant city manager, Jones served from 1999 to 2006 as executive director of Eugene’s Library, Recreation and Cultural Services, and from 1993 to 1999 she served as deputy director of the parks department of the City of Richmond, Va. She worked 12 years for the City of Richmond, where she lived for more than 15 years.

‘‘I think as a Council we’re very happy with the decision and we look forward to Angel helping us with this new era in Gaithersburg,” said Councilman Michael A. Sesma.

‘‘I’m very glad we concluded the process, it was long and a lot of work,” said Councilwoman Cathy Drzyzygula. ‘‘I’m looking forward to working with Angel Jones and moving forward.”

Councilman Ryan A. Spiegel talked about Jones’ budgeting experience, ‘‘big ideas” and success with visionary projects, such as helping to secure that 2008 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials were held in Eugene.

Gaithersburg’s acting city manager, Jim Arnoult, will return to his job as director of the Department of Public Works in September.