San Jose City Council Promotes David Sykes to City Manager

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.


  1. Whatever the minimum number of years (2?) Sykes must hold this position in order to enjoy it’s pension is exactly how long we can expect him to “serve” before he retires.
    What a racket.

  2. I can honestly say that Dave Sykes is one of the finest individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with in my professional career. San Jose is very lucky to have him. Just take a look at what’s going on in other Cities around here.

  3. > The city manager is one of five positions at City Hall that report directly to the elected council.

    And the other four positions are?

      • Thanks.

        The “Independent Police Auditor” is really just the chief “Social Justice Warrior”.

        It’s absurd that the city’s official SJW has the stature of the City Manager or City Attorney.

        Also, absurd that half of the City’s executive departments are “auditors”. Can’t the CIty Auditor watch over the Police Department?

        It’s really a very malignant personnel policy that puts the Police Department under the dominion or TWO auditors, thus implying that police officers are TWICE as UNtrustworthy as all other city employees.

  4. Sykes is a nice guy indeed. But he’s not a leader. Kim Walesh would be been more of a dynamic leader and change agent.

    But Liccardo owes Sykes for taking the fall for the flood. In any other place, Sykes would have been shown the door. But here, covering for his boss got him a promotion. What a city.

  5. You can’t even get through to anyone of the Assistant City Managers or the City Manager when you need to. I was told it would take MONTHS to get an appointment with someone in that office. So what is the point of even having a City Manager’s Office if citizens don’t have access to them?

  6. The City of San Jose is lucky to have David Sykes as it’s City Manager. As a long time resident of the City of San Jose and a customer of the City, I have had the pleasure of dealing with David at every level since he has been with the City and I have the utmost respect for him and his professionalism. He is a man of great integrity, truly cares about our great community and will do an outstanding job representing our City.


    Reyad Katwan

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