Milpitas interim city manager Ned Thomas speaking and sitting behind the city council dias. City attorney Michael Mutalipassi and Vice Mayor Evelyn Chua sit beside him.
Milpitas officials appointed Acting City Manager Ned Thomas (center) to the position permanently on Oct. 3, 2023. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Milpitas has a new city manager—the fourth in the past six years.

The Milpitas City Council removed the word “acting” from Ned Thomas’ city manager title at Tuesday’s meeting and approved his permanent appointment through June 30, 2025, with an option to renew annually. His annual base salary is $279,000, according to his contract.

Thomas previously served as the city’s planning director, a job he held for more than five years.

At the meeting, Vice Mayor Evelyn Chua said 51 people applied for the role, and the council whittled the options down to six finalists before selecting Thomas.

Thomas said his goals for the city manager’s office are to be open, accessible and transparent. He also wants to boost morale and improve “inefficiencies” in organization of the city.

“I want to be respectful and responsive to the direction given to us by the council, and to continue to make Milpitas the best community it can be,” Thomas told San José Spotlight.

Prior to joining Milpitas, Thomas worked as a planner in a handful of other cities, most recently in San Jose’s planning department. He holds a master’s degree in urban planning from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

Milpitas has been searching for a permanent city manager since Steve McHarris left earlier this year. Councilmembers voted not to renew his contract, which expired in June. McHarris held the position for about three years after serving as interim city manager for nearly a year. Milpitas has gone through three permanent city managers in the past six years, including McHarris.

In May, McHarris filed a claim against the city alleging mistreatment by Chua, Mayor Carmen Montano and City Attorney Michael Mutalipassi. The claim details an oppressive work environment, with pressure to fall in line with Montano and former Mayor Richard Tran’s decisions. McHarris alleges they pressured him to fire an employee without credible reasoning.

Councilmember Anthony Phan said employee morale is low, but he is confident Thomas will provide “a sense of relief” due to his experience working and navigating Milpitas politics.

“We need somebody who’s familiar, who knows the ins and outs of the city to navigate us ahead amidst these turbulent times,” Phan told San José Spotlight.

Thomas said improving morale has been a priority even during his interim period. In his first meeting with the city’s executive directors, he said they focused on employee recruitment, onboarding and retention. Thomas said he has been meeting workers in-person, emphasizing his gratitude for their work.

The city is also looking to hire a new assistant city manager. Milpitas spokesperson Charmaine Angelo confirmed to San José Spotlight that Assistant City Manager Ashwini Kantak resigned last week. She served five years in the position and as acting city manager for two weeks before officials appointed Thomas.

Angelo said Kantak decided it was time to move on while visiting family in India. The city is still finalizing her last day and there have been no discussions on how to fill her vacancy, Angelo said. As of last week, Kantak had been removed from the city staff directory. Kantak could not be reached for comment.

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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