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Long Beach searching for new city manager as Gayden nearing end of her contract

New Long Beach City Manager Donna Gayden is

New Long Beach City Manager Donna Gayden is sworn in at a special meeting at Long Beach City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Long Beach is seeking a deputy city manager to take over the city’s top management post when Donna Gayden leaves at the end of her contract this summer.

Gayden, who has been with the city for more than a year, was retained in 2020 with a contract extension for $190,000 that runs through August. The city has a mutual option to extend her contract through November.

Gayden said last week that although she has been fielding employment offers, she turned down a job rather than leave the city early. She said she wants to prepare a successor to take over the city’s management team and finances when she moves on.

"We’re going to discuss my contract, extending it next year and I’m entertaining it, but I’m not going to say I’m leaving. If I were to leave, it would be in November," Gayden said.

Long Beach City Council members hired Gayden in February 2020 to a six-month prorated contract for $178,000, using a search firm that recommended her while she was working at the time as a municipal finance director in Illinois.

The city is looking to make the deputy city manager a full-time position. In the past it has been a part-time role held by existing employees who were paid a stipend. The new job posting will accept applications through April, and the city hopes to make a hire by August. There is no specified salary on a job posting for the city manager’s chief assistant.

"This is a move to start planning on the time when we all know Donna is here to get the city turned around," City Council president John Bendo said. "Unfortunately, this is not a place she’s looking to make a long-term career, so we have to think about who’s going to come next and make sure that person is up to speed with everything the city is going through, so the idea is to bring in a deputy city manager to groom that person to eventually become our next city manager."

Gayden is the city’s fourth city manager in two years since taking over from Jack Schnirman. Long Beach officials said they hired her as a short-term fixer to turn around the city’s finances and balance its budgets.

In Gayden’s first budget last year, the City Council approved a 3.68% tax increase, under the state tax cap, while the city eliminated 24 full-time union and management employees and laid off 142 part-time employees to help lower a $6.5 million deficit.

Gayden said the city has reduced spending by $2.5 million while adding $2 million to the city’s general fund balance.

The city is working with an outside firm to make a five-year financial plan, including attempts to create economic development.

"I’m trying to leave them in a better place than when I got here," Gayden said.

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