Editorial: City should mandate, fund education for manager

City Hall

It is all but certain that the Hollister council will hire Bill Avera as permanent city manager. The longtime city planning official deserves a shot at showing he’s the right person for the job, but the council should set a new standard and require Avera to pursue a public administration degree.
They should mandate pursuit of a degree, and it would be well worth the city’s investment to pay for those education costs.
For far too long, Hollister councils have compromised when it comes to hiring staff leadership, namely the city manager, even without relevant experience or education. Part of the problem is that the county’s economic rut has created an inherent disadvantage when recruiting new managers, but another part of the problem is that hiring standards and effort are continually lacking.
This time around, the council boasted of its due diligence – which just about every public agency does when it is about to turn around and hire someone from within – when noting it considered 50 candidates and 15 finalists. In the end, the council appears to be most comfortable with Avera, currently serving as interim city manager, as its next permanent city manager.
That is fine, as long as the council sets greater expectations for accountability than prior councils have established with the managers – and as long as Avera, an established and competent decision maker, pursues a degree that matches his role in city government.
It would be unfair to require that Avera pay for those costs not only because city leaders are already acknowledging he’s the right person for the position, but also because Hollister just can’t afford to compete on compensation with other jurisdictions in the region with far more economic activity. With the passage of Measure E, though, the city has the necessary, one-time funds to enhance Avera’s educational background and should do so.
It remains to be seen whether Avera is the right choice for city manager. He brings many positive attributes to the table, but at the same time he has to live down the city’s reputation for promoting sluggish management from career department heads. From the city’s end, it has to live down its reputation for accepting less than prospective excellence, and getting Avera to reach that level would serve all parties for the better.

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