Interim city manager pledges to be ‘open, honest, and direct’

Steve Falk sworn in as Richmond Interim City Manager on Tuesday, Aug. 13. (bottom right photo, courtesy of Mayor Tom Butt)

Richmond’s newly appointed interim City Manager Steve Falk expects to serve in his role through the end of the year, and during that time will help the city find a permanent city manager, he stated in a brief note published on the City Manager’s Office weekly newsletter.

Falk’s statement last week in full:

As you may have heard or read, I was pleased to be appointed this week to be Richmond’s interim city manager.

I will serve in the role through the end of the year, and my priority during this period will be to help find a permanent city manager. I am confident that there are many great candidates out there who would relish the opportunity to serve this great city with a beautiful shoreline on the San Francisco bay!

I’ve only been in the office for a couple of days, but I will tell you that I am impressed!  The City’s unemployment and crime rates are at historic lows, and business and development activity is way, way up.  And every staff and community person I’ve met so far has greeted me warmly and professionally. 

Those who have worked with me in the past describe my management style in three words — open, honest, and direct – and I pledge to remain that way during my days in Richmond.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to forward them my way or to the City Manager’s Office, and we will do our best to respond.

I look forward to working together with you to serve the residents of Richmond.

Falk was sworn in Aug. 13 following a 6-0 vote at a special Richmond City Council meeting, with Councilmember Demnlus Johnson III absent as he was out of town, according to Richmond Mayor Tom Butt’s e-forum newsletter. He will be paid an hourly rate of $175, equivalent of Martinez’ compensation, the mayor said.

Interestingly, Councilmember Johnson was, just earlier this month, a student of Falk’s, who has been teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, Goldman School of Public Policy, according to Mayor Butt.

Falk has replaced former Acting City Manager Henry Gardner, the longtime public administrator and consultant who assumed the role for a two-week period following the tumultuous firing of former City Manager Carlos Martinez. Gardner has since moved on to become interim CEO for the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority.

By a 4-3 council vote, Martinez was terminated after less than a year as Richmond City Manager. The termination occurred amid a dispute between Martinez and the city’s labor unions over how to address the city’s budget deficit.

Falk comes to Richmond in the wake of resigning as Lafayette’s longtime city manager in September last year, in part over differences in policy, according to an East Bay Times report. In a statement, according to the Times, Falk cited “voters’ rejection of two recent measures and BART’s current plan for housing as key reasons” for his resignation from the City of Lafayette.

“All cities – even small ones – have a responsibility to address the most significant challenges of our time: climate change, income inequality, and housing affordability,” Falk wrote, according to the Times. “I believe that adding multifamily housing at the BART station is the best way for Lafayette to do its part, and it has therefore become increasingly difficult for me to support, advocate for, or implement policies that would thwart transit density. My conscience won’t allow it.’”

Still, Falk was praised by Lafayette elected officials for his service, with a critic on council stating high respect for Falk despite policy disagreements.

Mayor Butt also lauded Falk’s resume.

“By all accounts, Falk was an effective city manager in Lafayette, delivering a new $50 million library, veterans building, ballfields, affordable housing, downtown revitalization, housing, and economic development,” Butt wrote in his newsletter. “Lafayette has had twenty-eight consecutive balanced budgets and a AAA bond rating – only 25 of 500 California cities earn this rating.”

For more on Falk’s career and accolades, along with a list of some articles he wrote on policy, read Mayor Butt’s full report here.