NORWALK — With elections behind them, City Council members are settling down to find a successor for City Administrator Richard Streng, who more than two months ago announced his intentions to retire this spring.
Streng, a 31-year veteran of City Hall who has headed the city staff for the last two years, had planned to call an end to his career in mid-May. But he has agreed to remain on a contract basis for two or three months while the council searches for his replacement.
Council members say they deliberately postponed action on filling the post until after the April 12 election, which could have put two new faces on the council. As it turned out, voters returned long-time incumbent Robert E. White and chose political newcomer Mike Mendez for the vacant seat.
An assistant administrator for the city of Santa Fe Springs with years of staff experience, Mendez will likely assume an active role in the selection of the new administrator, who will be the city's fourth in five years.
Started as a Clerk
William Kraus resigned under a cloud of questions about his personal business dealings in 1983, after a decade in the top city post. He was followed by Raymond Gibbs, who resigned in 1986 when the council split over whether he should be retained. Streng was then named administrator, capping his three-decade rise from a clerkship.
Streng, 56, says he simply decided that it was time to do something else with his life, and council members are emphatic that Streng was under no pressure to leave. However, some City Hall sources suggest that Streng got fed up with dealing with the council, which had reportedly expressed concern that he was not sufficiently forceful and aggressive in exercising his duties. "He's such a nice guy . . . " one councilman commented.
While council members say they have not ruled out the possibility of promoting someone from within the city staff, they intend to cast their net outside Norwalk, focusing particularly on people with municipal experience in this region.
"I think most of us are agreed we're going to look for one in the south Los Angeles (County) area. We're not going to go statewide," White said.
No Applicants Yet
The council hopes to rely on the expertise of a few neighboring city managers, such as Gaylord Knapp of Cerritos and Don Powell of Santa Fe Springs, to help screen applications. None have been received thus far.
Streng, who plans to move with his wife to Valley Center in San Diego County and build a house there, will be paid about $50 an hour under his continuation contract. Taking his fringe benefits into account, Streng said the hourly fee will keep him in his current salary range of $78,000 a year.
Although Streng said he could have postponed his retirement, he preferred to go ahead with it, switching to a contract after May 15. His agreement with the city calls for a 40-hour week, and while City Atty. Ken Brown said the contract language will be somewhat flexible, it assumes that Streng will stay on for no more than two or three months.