Milpitas City Manager Julie Edmonds-Mares Calls It Quits

Milpitas City Manager Julie Edmonds-Mares is stepping down after less than a year-and-a-half on the job, marking the fourth time in two years that the position has been vacated.

Waiting in the wings to succeed her is Deputy City Manager Steve McHarris.

“I’m very proud of what we have accomplished working together in the city of Milpitas,” Edmond-Mares said in a news release issued late afternoon Wednesday, “and I know that I’m leaving Milpitas a better organization.”

No doubt. Not that her predecessors set a high bar.

Tom Williams went on leave in May of 2017 after getting caught unlawfully spending city money on his personal legal beef with Mayor Rich Tran, who publicly criticized the career bureaucrat for being the common denominator in a slew of costly harassment, discrimination and retaliation lawsuits. Williams resigned four months later to avoid arbitration and has since found another city manager gig in his hometown of Millbrae.

Former police chief Steve Pangelinan held down the fort from May of 2017 to January last year. The council then hired Dianne Thompson—despite her termination from an equivalent position by the town of Arroyo Grande—to take the helm until Edmonds-Mares came on as permanent city manager in February of 2018.

There’s a bit of poetic justice in McHarris landing the job.

In 2015 as Milpitas planning director, whether he meant to or not, he set in motion a chain of events that culminated with Williams’ departure. It was early spring that year when McHarris filed a complaint against the notoriously wrathful Williams, who in turn clashed with then-city attorney Michael Ogaz over how to handle it.

Ultimately, McHarris left for an opportunity with the city of San Jose, and Ogaz a year later filed a lawsuit that Milpitas settled for close to $1 million.

Milpitas HR chief Carmen Valdez left a month after McHarris, continuing a years-long exodus of department heads—some of whom, including James Lindsey and Jeff Moneda, became city managers elsewhere. That dysfunction became a central theme of Tran’s 2016 campaign. So when he won, the young mayor took that as a mandate to hold Williams accountable for the litigation and upheaval that happened under his watch.

By then, Williams’ days were numbered.

Despite the brevity of Edmonds-Mares’ tenure, and the fact that her elected bosses on the City Council put her performance under scrutiny in recent months, city hall managed to regain some of its footing under her watch. Tran commended her for appointing several seasoned professionals in key positions, renewing frayed relationships with the local business community and launching the city’s participation in the regional Silicon Valley Clean Energy Consortium, among other things.

“We truly appreciate and recognize the significant contributions of Julie Edmonds-Mares during her service to Milpitas,” Tran said in a prepared statement. “Over the past year Julie worked with the City Council to make tremendous progress toward stabilizing our organization and strengthening our team to make our city a great place to work and a great force for enhancing the quality of life for our residents. We’re pleased that Milpitas is now being run more efficiently than in prior administrations.”

And despite this being an in-the-meantime promotion for McHarris, he at least offers some continuity as one of the city’s veteran administrators.

“Steve has both the breadth and depth of professional planning experience that we need to lead the incredibly fast-paced growth of our city,” Tran said. “Combined with his extensive knowledge of our community, his familiarity with the challenges of planning, development, and housing in Silicon Valley, and his positive vision for Milpitas, he’s an outstanding fit for our community and the city organization.”

Councilwoman Carman Montano agreed.

“I’m confident we’ll be in good hands with Steve McHarris at the helm,” she said. “He knows both this organization and this community extremely well, and I’ve found him very professional and supportive of the City Council.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

6 Comments

  1. She was in way over her head at this position. She did okay in SJ because she had a lot of help. In Milpitas, the buck stopped at her and she caved. This is not unusual for people who leave for greener pastures and get overwhelmed by the new problems.

  2. Milpitas should be enthusiastically celebrating the departure of a City Manager that should have never been hired in the first place.

    David S. Wall

  3. Milpitas HR chief Carmen Valdez left a month after McHarris, continuing a years-long exodus of department heads—some of whom, including James Lindsey and Jeff Moneda, became city managers elsewhere.

    And there’s the basic problem: city managers play musical chairs with their highly compensated jobs, each one taking over from another city manager.

    City Councils hire city managers at taxpayer expense, to do the job we elect City Councils to do. And the city managers answer to the people who hire them: the Mayor and Council — not the voters/taxpayers.

    It used to be that the Mayors and City Councils would manage the city. But that’s actually, like, work.

    It’s much easier to hire a city manager (at an exorbitant salary) to do the Mayor and City Council’s job.

    The city manager answers to the council that hired them, not to the voters/taxpayers who pay their salary. And if there’s a conflict between the voters/taxpayerrs and the Mayor and Council, the citizens lose.

    I’d like to see cities get back to the way things used to be, with the Mayors and City Councils administering their cities. Now most of the job of the Mayors and Councils is kissing babies, and otherwise campaigning for their next election.

    And if the city’s residents complain that there are too many pot holes, the solution is easy-peasy: fire the city manager — who then just MovesOn to the next city to mismanage.

    Does anyone else have a problem with paying a city manager to do the job of the elected Mayor and City Council?

  4. Smokey raises some good points. The issue is, the mayor and city Council salary is a tiny pittance compared to the salary of a city manager, and the work that a city manager is expected to do. So you end up with someone taking most of the power and responsibility even though they are not democratically elected. If we’re going to restore power to the people and the voters, and bring back democracy, significant reforms might need to be made.

  5. Is there any money left after cleaning up after all this incompetence, ineptitude and mismanagement, to fix the potholes? Sounds doubtful.

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