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Interim City Manager Promoted

The Thousand Oaks council decides to give the job permanently to Scott Mitnick.

November 17, 2005|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Thousand Oaks interim City Manager Scott Mitnick, selected six months ago to fill in following the resignation of the former city manager, was this week given the city's top administrative job permanently.

His promotion was approved on a 3-1 vote at the council's Tuesday night meeting, with Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Pena dissenting. Councilman Ed Masry, who has been hospitalized on and off since March, was absent.

"I have been quite satisfied with the performance of Mr. Mitnick these last few months," Bill-de la Pena said in announcing the appointment. "But I wanted to do a search as had been discussed at the beginning of this process. I thought it would have been fairer to have a search to pick the best candidate, though Mr. Mitnick likely may have been that candidate."

Councilman Dennis Gillette, who joined colleagues Andy Fox and Jacqui Irwin in supporting Mitnick, previously Thousand Oaks' assistant city manager, said in an interview Wednesday that the council always intended to learn how Mitnick would perform with greater responsibility before agreeing to a costly search for a possible replacement.

"If we were to go out on an extensive, expensive national search, Scott is the kind of person I would be looking for and we had him here," Gillette said. "I have been involved in municipal government for 42 years and have worked with some of the city managers considered deans of the profession ... as far as I am concerned, I think [Mitnick] is excellent. He has all of the necessary skills."

Irwin said the city not only avoided the cost of an executive search, but didn't have to face having to offer housing assistance to an out-of-town candidate, considering that new homes in Thousand Oaks sell for a median price of $1.1 million. "You know exactly what you're getting when you pick someone who has served as the assistant city manager," she said.

During his time as interim city manager, Irwin said Mitnick raised staff morale, secured new contracts with city employees and helped the council establish written goals for the city's future.

Mitnick "definitely has the quality to be city manager, he has lots of experience, especially in finance," Irwin said. "He's sincere, passionate and smart. And the bottom line is, he knows the residents of the city."

Masry's son, Louis, said Wednesday that although his father was not released from the hospital in time to make Tuesday's meeting, he supported Mitnick's promotion. The elder Masry, he said, was impressed that Mitnick had visited him in the hospital at least once a week, usually with other senior staff members, to keep him informed on city business.

"When someone shows up every week for months and is loyal, dedicated and honest, that's important.... My father felt that Scott was the right person," Louis Masry said. "He likes Scott Mitnick. He's a stand-up guy,"

Mitnick, 40, came to Thousand Oaks in December 1999, working as assistant city manager for MaryJane Lazz and then for Philip Gatch, a 38-year veteran with the city who replaced Lazz for nearly two years until he resigned in April. Gatch, 64, later told officials that he believed he had been forced out.

"It's an honor and privilege to live and work in Thousand Oaks, let alone have the opportunity to be city manager," Mitnick said. "I look forward to working with the City Council, city employees, local businesses and residents to ensure that Thousand Oaks remains a premier, California city well into the future."

Because of his tenure, Gatch, who received final salary and benefits of more than $215,000, was given a severance package of nearly $500,000 and is eligible for nearly $194,000 a year in retirement pay.

Mitnick, who earns nearly $196,000 in salary and other benefits as interim city manager, will get a raise when his new contract is ratified next month.

A graduate of Cal State Fullerton and Syracuse University, where he received a master's degree in public administration, Mitnick began his career in Brea as a budget analyst, then spent seven years in Burbank as a financial analyst, project manager, budget officer and assistant to the city manager. He moved to Yuba City in the Sacramento Valley and worked for three years as administrative services director, serving as that city's finance director before coming to Thousand Oaks.

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