San Jose has named a successor for outgoing City Manager Norberto Dueñas: his second-in-command, David Sykes. In closed session on Tuesday, Mayor Sam Liccardo and the City Council unanimously approved Sykes’ appointment.
“Dave is exactly the type of leader that we need to move to our city forward,” Liccardo said in a press release. “With more than 30 years of experience with the city of San Jose, Dave brings a wealth of knowledge and proven leadership that will be critical to helping us continue to rebuild our organization and restore the critical public services that our residents deserve.”
Under the city charter, the city manager is responsible for administering all operations and employees, managing day-to-day delivery of services, advising the council and implementing their policies. The city manager is one of five positions at City Hall that report directly to the elected council.
“I am honored to lead this amazing organization that I grew up in,” Sykes said in a statement. “There are so many exciting things happening in San Jose, and I look forward to continuing my support to the mayor and council and serving this wonderful community.”
Sykes came to City Hall as a part-time engineering trainee in 1987. Over the ensuing decades, he rose through the ranks. The veteran bureaucrat served the longest stretch of his tenure in Public Works, where he presided over more than $700 million of infrastructure improvements. In 2014, he worked briefly as head of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement until the city found a permanent director.
Two years ago, he became an assistant city manager in charge of overseeing day-to-day operations in all departments. After Coyote Creek flooded this past February, Sykes came under fire for failing to issue evacuation orders—even after repeated warnings from subordinates.
At a public meeting held in March, real estate attorney and storm tracker Jeffrey Hare criticized Sykes for failing to issue timely evacuation orders.
“Now, Mr. Sykes,” Hare said, “I could interpret your charts apparently more accurately than your staff did.”
Born in the United Kingdom and raised in San Jose, Sykes graduated from Gunderson High School before earning both a bachelor’s and masters degree in civil engineering from San Jose State University. Sykes and his wife of 22 years, Elizabeth Sykes, live in San Jose with their two teenage children.