The fact that Morgan Hill’s own Community Services Director Steve Rymer rose to the top of a field of nearly 50 applicants in a nationwide search for a new city manager shows what a high-quality staff the City has, according to Council members.
The City Council is expected to appoint Rymer, who has worked for Morgan Hill since 2006, to the position of city manager at the body’s regular meeting Wednesday, and he will start in his new job Feb. 4 if the Council approves his new position.
Rymer will replace current City Manager Ed Tewes, who has served in that position for about 13 years.
If the Council approves a proposed contract for Rymer to fill the city manager’s position, he will oversee about 160 City employees in public works, the police department, recreation and parks, finance, human resources and other administrative services, as well as economic development and housing services.
The Council’s choice of Rymer concludes a nationwide recruitment, interview and selection process that the Council started last summer, just after Tewes announced he would be resigning.
“Steve is a wonderful fit to lead Morgan Hill forward and improve our already outstanding quality of life,” Mayor Steve Tate said.
Tate and Vice Mayor Gordon Siebert comprised a committee to supervise the Council’s search for a new city manager, which started last summer soon after Tewes announced he would be leaving. The Council hired the executive search firm Ralph Anderson and Associates to begin the search, which drew initial interest from about 50 candidates. After narrowing down the field, Tate and Siebert interviewed the top nine candidates, Tate said, and then the full Council interviewed the top five in a closed session in December.
Although Rymer’s proposed contract was not available at press time, he said he will earn an annual base salary of $199,500 if the Council agrees Wednesday. That’s slightly lower than Tewes’ most recent annual salary of about $203,000. Those numbers do not include benefits, allowances and other compensation. Tewes’ total compensation including these costs came out to about $264,000 in 2011.
Council members declined to state Rymer’s total compensation before Friday afternoon, when the proposed contract will be available to the public. But Siebert noted that while Rymer’s proposed salary remains competitive, the City will save money on relocation costs since Rymer is already local.
The proposed contract goes until June 30, 2014, Rymer said.
Siebert listed a number of Rymer’s qualities and experience traits that placed him at the top of the field.
“Steve demonstrated a better understanding of the city's needs than all other candidates,” Siebert said. “Second, his demonstrated innovative management skills were apparent as he functioned as a deputy city manager, although his title did not reflect that. Third, he managed a new process and in a new area – fire service – which demonstrates his ability to negotiate fairly, yet in the City's best interest. Finally, his personal approach to people is respectful, professional and clear while being approachable.”
The applicants included some experienced city managers and assistant city managers from other cities, “but while their achievements were good, their approaches or interpersonal skills in most cases did not match our stated desires,” Siebert said.
Councilmember Rich Constantine added, “The national search for a city manager has shown that we have extremely qualified employees serving our citizens.”
As the City’s community services director, Rymer oversees recreation services, parks and street maintenance, fire services and environmental services.
Rymer’s background before coming to Morgan Hill in 2006 was in recreation services. He served as the community center manager, and then the director of parks and recreation in New Brighton, Minn. When he first joined Morgan Hill’s staff, he was the director of what was then the recreation and community services department. That department has been consolidated into a single department with other administrative services including public works.
While in New Brighton, Rymer, 44, earned his Masters of Public Administration degree from Hamline University in St. Paul. He was “born and raised” in Minnesota, and last summer he applied for a job - which he was not offered - as city manager of Eau Claire, Wisc., which is about 90 miles east of Minneapolis. However Rymer, who is married with three children, said he has “no plans to leave (Morgan Hill) any time soon.”
Rymer said he is looking forward to serving as city manager in Morgan Hill because he will continue working with a “talented, dedicated team of employees,” and a “stable” city council whose members share the same philosophy of “trying to make sure Morgan Hill is a great place to live, work and play.”
“And this is a great community, where everybody wants to find ways to make it a better community,” Rymer said.
In Morgan Hill, he has spearheaded a number of significant changes to public recreation programs and facilities. These include recovering 100 percent of the recreation department’s costs, and finding a private vendor to operate the City’s 38-acre Outdoor Sports Complex, a popular venue for regional youth soccer tournaments.
Most recently, Rymer organized the reestablishment of the Morgan Hill Fire Department with a new contract for services with Calfire that kicked in earlier this month.
While working for Morgan Hill, Rymer has been praised by Council members, city staff and his colleagues for his “collaborative leadership style,” that resulted in national recognition for the City’s partnership with the YMCA of Silicon Valley for recreational facilities, the Council said in a press release announcing the city manager pick Tuesday.
Rymer thinks the relationships he has developed with the YMCA, the Morgan Hill Youth Sports Alliance (the soccer complex operator), Aquatics Foundation, City staff and others in the community are part of the reason the Council saw him as the best choice for city manager.
Rymer said he will focus on the Council’s goals of ensuring not just a financially sustainable level of city services, but also “environmental sustainability as well as social equability.”
Specific areas that he considers top priorities are public safety, which will entail working with Police Chief David Swing to continue to enact an “outcome based” public safety strategy; and economic development.
“With the dissolution of the redevelopment agency, we need to be creative, and find the resources to invest in Morgan Hill and stimulate economic growth,” Rymer said.
He also plans to foster the City’s relationship with the Morgan Hill Unified School District, which is key to ensuring the “collective success” of the community.
Tewes will stay employed at City Hall until Feb. 15. After Feb. 4, when Rymer takes the helm, Tewes will be available to help Rymer “in any way he sees fit.”
Tewes hired Rymer in 2006.
“Throughout his career in Morgan Hill, he has demonstrated an eagerness to assume additional responsibility and contribute to the overall success of the community and the City organization,” Tewes said.