UPDATE: Santa Clara hires new city manager
The Santa Clara City Council chambers located at City Hall. File photo.

    Santa Clara is getting a new city manager after nearly a year of searching for the right person to lead the city.

    The Santa Clara City Council voted 4-1 to hire Jovan D. Grogan at an annual salary of $405,506. Councilmember Anthony Becker voted no. Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Councilmember Kathy Watanabe were absent.

    Grogan, who did not attend the meeting, will start May 1. He currently serves as city manager of San Bruno, where he’s worked since 2018. Before that he worked as deputy city manager of Berkeley and Concord.

    “We are going into a deficit of $27 million and Mr. Grogan has a very highly qualified experience in budgeting,” Councilmember Raj Chahal said. “The budget is one of the most important priorities for the council right now.”

    Grogan previously worked as a senior management advisor with consulting firm Management Partners, according to his page on the San Bruno city website. He attended Cornell University and received a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional studies and a master’s in regional planning.

    San Bruno City Manager Jovan D. Grogan starts as the city manager of Santa Clara on May 1. Photo courtesy of San Bruno.

    Becker said Grogan is being paid a lower salary than former City Manager Deanna Santana, with Becker blaming previous administrations for “handing out very high salaries.”

    The city fired Santana last February. She drew public scrutiny for having one of the largest compensation packages of any government worker in California. According to public records, Santana received an 11% salary increase from councilmembers before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, bringing her base salary to more than $448,000.

    For comparison, San Jose City Manager Jennifer Maguire made about $440,477 with benefits in 2021. Santa Clara County CEO Jeff Smith’s replacement, James Williams, will make 10% more than his predecessor, earning $460,373 starting in June.

    Santana’s office also had a number of other employees with top-of-the-pack salaries, including three assistant city managers with salaries exceeding $300,000 in 2020.

    Becker said he thinks Grogan’s salary is “unsustainable.” While he said he supports Grogan, he said he’s promised voters to improve the city’s financial outlook.

    “After years of discussing this as a resident with my community about how high our salaries are and why we’re in a deficit, this is an opportunity to bring our city back,” Becker said. “But we need to make drastic changes now. This is not personal. This is how I do business.”

    Vice Mayor Kevin Park said the city is excited to have a permanent city manager to guide it.

    “It’s clear the city council is split in many ways,” he told San José Spotlight before the vote. “We need a city manager that is able to look at all the challenges in the city, and not focus on the ones that happen to lead the narrative. We need someone who’s able to mitigate the differences on the council, instead of creating wider divides.”

    After Santana’s firing, councilmembers hired Rajeev Batra as interim city manager last April, who previously served in the role in April 2016 through March 2017. He worked as the city’s public works director for roughly 13 years before that. His contract of $445,000 expired on Jan. 31.

    In his final address to the council on Jan. 31, Batra spoke of the work done under his leadership to stabilize the city’s budget, such as the revised business license tax that voters approved in November and hiring freezes.

    “I had a lot of ideas to implement, but obviously in a short time frame you can only implement so many things,” he said.

    Contact Natalie Hanson at [email protected] or @nhanson_reports on Twitter.

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