It’s Official: Milpitas Hires Steve McHarris as City Manager

In 2015, Steve McHarris left his post as Milpitas planning director to escape the alleged abuses by his old boss, City Manager Tom Williams.

That complaint set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to Williams’ downfall and forced departure after being exposed as a bully and a cheat, having tried to get taxpayers to pick up the tab for his personal legal battles.

Now, five years and a few successors later, McHarris is Milpitas’ top bureaucrat, having been promoted to the role last week in a unanimous vote by the City Council.

For McHarris, it’s been quite a journey. For a few years after resigning to dodge Williams’ retaliation for speaking up about ethical lapses, McHarris worked for San Jose’s planning division, where he was reportedly treated with much more respect.

Meanwhile, Milpitas went through a rotating cast of city managers.

Williams was followed by ex-MPD Chief Steve Pangelinan, who led City Hall from May 2017 to the start of the following year. Then, the council hired Dianne Thompson, fresh off her firing from an equivalent job in Arroyo Grande. San Jose’s former Parks ’n’ Rec boss Julie Edmonds-Mares took the helm from February 2018 to May 2019, at which point McHarris—then her second-in-command—stepped up to the plate.

McHarris sheds the “interim” part of his title just as the city faces one of the worst recessions in anyone’s lifetime. But Mayor Rich Tran said the new city manager’s three decades of public service will help Milpitas pull through.

“Prior to the global pandemic, our city was strongly humming, core services were performing like never before and our city revenues broke record after record,” he said. “It was in large part [due] to the city manager’s office,” which is why he called McHarris his “first choice” to “lead us through these challenging times.”

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  1. In every city that has a City Manager (CM), the role of that city’s Mayor and Council is to kiss babies and campaign for re-election. By contrast, the role of a City Manager is to:

    • Administer the city, but to stand quietly in the background whenever there’s praise for something related to the city’s administration, thus allowing do-nothing electeds to take full credit for it, and

    • To take the heat or the fall, as the case may be, whenever the electeds really screw things up.

    The electeds misuse the city residents’ taxes to lavishly overcompensate a City Manager — and make no misteak, the CM is the electeds’ employee, not the residents’.

    The CM works on a contractual basis, and his/her employers are the Mayor and City Council. The city’s residents are not any part of that employment contract, therefore the residents have no say in any contractual issues between the employer (Mayor & Council), and their employee (the CM).

    All cities with a CM have the same ethical problem: their City Councils and Mayors have turned their job over to a CM, who does the electeds’ job — the job they campaigned for. The job they’re still being paid to do.

    The voters elect a Mayor and City Council for only one (1) reason: to administer their city for the benefit of the city’s residents. But in every city that has a CM, the electeds have foisted their only job duty onto an overpaid outside troubleshooter, who works exclusively for them and not for the residents who are forced to pay the CM’s outrageously high salary and benefits.

    In any city with a Mayor, a City Council, and a CM that scolds someone for wrongdoing, that city’s holier-than-thou electeds need to be reminded that it’s misappropriation of our taxes when they use it to hire someone to do the only job they were elected to do: manage the city.

    Instead, they’re running a racket by hiring a personal servant at the residents’ expense — a CM who is unaccountable to those forced to pay the CM’s salary and benefits.

    Why do we even need a Mayor or City Council? We could save a yuge pile of wasted tax money by simply electing the CM — and defenestrating the deadweight that the CM’s employers have turned into.

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