San Jose City Manager Norberto Dueñas Has Interim Tag Removed

Norbert Dueñas has spent the past 30 years working for the city of San Jose, steadily moving up the ladder until becoming the city's top employee in December. On Tuesday, a decision was announced that he will remain in his role as city manager, minus the "interim" tag.

“Norberto has demonstrated strong, effective, and calm leadership throughout his career with our city, and especially during our recent period of transition for the City Council, management, and our entire organization,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “I am delighted that we have the right person for the job already within our organization."

In his position as the permanent city manager, Dueñas reports only to the City Council. He took over the position in December following the forced resignation of Ed Shikada. His annual salary increased at that time and will remain at $250,000.

His responsibilities, according to a city press release, will continue to consist of monitoring "day-to-day municipal operations and the implementation of council policies." He is also responsible for overseeing the city's $3 billion annual budget and 5,700 employees.

“This is a tremendous honor, and I look forward to continuing with working with our City Council and leading our staff,” Dueñas said in a statement. “After our recent years of sacrifice and financial challenges, I believe we’re now on a good path to accomplish great things. However, I also know that any success I will have will also depend on the excellent talent and dedication of our managers and employees who get the job done for our community every day.”

There was an expectation that the city would conduct a national search for Shikada's permanent replacement, but city communications director David Vossbrink said no search occurred.

"Over the last couple of months, we hadn’t seen anything being posted, there was no visible search underway," he said. "So that, to me, was an early signal that perhaps the mayor was waiting to see how Norberto was settling in before going outside for a search."

The city manager's office has become a calmer place to work since the turmoil to end last year. In just a two-month span the city paid three top administrators $333,000 to go away.

"Things settled down very quickly," Vossbrink said. "Folks were here focusing on the job at hand. Norberto is a quiet, understated guy, but no drama from him and no drama from anyone else that I noticed."

Vossbrink added that there was a strong turnout from city manager staffers at Tuesday's council meeting to announce the decision.

Below is the full press release sent out by the city of San Jose:

The San José City Council today unanimously appointed Norberto Dueñas as the next city manager for the City of San José. A city employee for 30 years serving in multiple capacities, Dueñas has served as interim city manager since December 2014 following the resignation of former city manager Ed Shikada.

Prior to becoming interim city manager, Dueñas had served as deputy city manager since 2008 overseeing a wide range of neighborhood and community service functions including libraries, housing, and parks and recreation services.

“Norberto has demonstrated strong, effective, and calm leadership throughout his career with our city, and especially during our recent period of transition for the City Council, management, and our entire organization,” said San José Mayor Sam Liccardo. “I am delighted that we have the right person for the job already within our organization.

“I have great confidence that Norberto, with his deep knowledge and experience, will both serve the people of San José and our outstanding team of employees and support the City Council to achieve our city’s goals.”

Under the San José City Charter, the city manager serves as the city’s chief administrative officer and reports directly to the City Council. The city manager is responsible for administration of day-to-day municipal operations and the implementation of council policies. The city manager is also responsible for overseeing San José’s $3 billion annual budget and the City’s 5,700 employee workforce.

“This is a tremendous honor, and I look forward to continuing with working with our City Council and leading our staff,” Dueñas said. “After our recent years of sacrifice and financial challenges, I believe we’re now on a good path to accomplish great things. However, I also know that any success I will have will also depend on the excellent talent and dedication of our managers and employees who get the job done for our community every day.”

Dueñas started his city career in 1985 as a Council assistant and chief of staff for former Councilmember Jim Beall, and later as a senior budget and policy analyst for former Mayor Susan Hammer.

After four years in the City Manager’s Office as Council liaison, he became a division manager in the Housing Department in 1999. He became deputy executive director for the San José Redevelopment Agency in 2006. From December 2013 to May 2014, Dueñas also served as interim assistant city manager, the city’s number two staff position.

Dueñas is the first Latino to serve as San José City Manager. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in public administration, both from San José State University. A resident of San José with his family, he will continue at his current annual salary of $250,000.

Correction: A previous version of this story listed Debra Figone as the most recent predecessor to Norberto Dueñas. San Jose Inside regrets the error.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

8 Comments

  1. Ed Shikada was impartial and beginning to make progress with negotiations with city employees. Just not the progress that fit SAM…. Lets see how much of a lapdog Duenas will be.

    • BUT–he already has 30 years in. My bet is that he will stay only long enough to put in some time so it can be claimed on his resume and then he will leave for some other city.

  2. Ed Shikada was the previous City Manager, not Debra Figone. I understand Sam would like to change history in his favor, I just didn’t realize SJI was so willing to be revisionary so quickly!

  3. Several prepositionally challenged folks contributed to this article.

  4. Hope he works out. Speaking of tag removal…perhaps he can spur the city to do a better job of tag removal, especially downtown. He needs to forge an alliance with SJPD and the SCC DA to aggressively prosecute these vandals.

  5. Just curious , Is he going to be let go or pushed out the door ( like Shikada) for coming to terms with City workers ?

  6. He has inherited an easy road. But we shall see how long he lasts once the honeymoon is over.