It’s official: Steve McHarris has been appointed as Milpitas’ new Interim City Manager.

McHarris, who had been serving as Deputy City Manager, was asked to step into the position surrounding Julie Edmonds-Mares’ resignation from her role as City Manager last Wednesday, May 29.

“[Julie and the City Councilmembers] decided to part ways,” said McHarris. “That was decided in last Tuesday’s closed session.”

McHarris, who wasn’t in the room when the decision was made, said that he was called in moments after and asked by the Council if he would take on the Interim role.

“I was honored to be asked, as you can imagine,” said McHarris. “Professionally we look at this as a challenge…being asked to step up into a position of higher leadership and responsibility. They were looking to me to continue doing what they’ve observed in my past experience up to now, working with the community.”

Before McHarris took on his previous role as Deputy City Manager back in May of 2018, he had been working for three years as a City of San Jose Planning Official.

Prior to that, he had served as Planning and Neighborhood Services Director — overseeing planning, housing, and code enforcement — for the City of Milpitas from 2012-2015. He resigned from that post amid conflict between him and past City Manager Tom Williams.  

McHarris, who spent his time as Deputy City Manager focused on land development and economic development, will now be moving into managing the City’s overall operations. McHarris feels confident that he can do so, alongside what he feels is a particularly strong executive management team.

Currently, his top-level team consists of experienced individuals like Planning Director Ned Thomas, Economic Development Director Alex Andrade, Director of Building and Housing Sharon Goei, and also Finance Director Walter Rossmann, who just started working with the City this past Monday.

Meanwhile, in the past year, several City department heads have left their positions. Most recently, Finance Director Will Fuentes vacated his position, stating at a budget meeting in February that it would be his last. Fuentes joined the City in May of 2017. And last year, in 2018, within a span of a few months, Economic Development Director Edesa Bitbadal, Planning Director Brad Misner, and Housing and Neighborhood Services Manager Tim Wong all left their positions. All of these departures occurred during Edmonds-Mares’ time as City Manager. 

When asked about the turnover, McHarris replied, “The former executives that have left…have left for their own professional reasons…”

Last year, in an interview with The Beat, Edmonds-Mares mentioned that “people come and go” across different workplaces all the time. She made this statement just 11 months before deciding to walk away. 

When The Beat spoke with Vice Mayor Karina Dominguez about the shift, she emphasized that the road ahead is bright:

“With Steve joining us as Interim…I’m just very excited to have him lead our city,” said Dominguez. “I am very confident that he is going to ensure that the needs of our community are a priority and that he’s going to have open communication with the Council and that the city is going to move in a positive direction for generations to come.”

Milpitas City Councilmembers spent time over the last few months holding closed session meetings to evaluate Julie Edmonds-Mares’ performance. One day after the last of those meetings winded down, on May 29, news of Edmonds-Mares resignation dropped in a City press release. She had held her City Manager position for just a little over a year, having been appointed in January of 2018. 

“Based on the input of our evaluation, she decided to resign,” mentioned Councilmember Carmen Montano a few days after Edmonds-Mares’ resignation. Montano declined to elaborate on the topic. She did, however, mention that the City is in good hands with McHarris, and said that she liked his leadership style. 

Meanwhile, Mayor Rich Tran spoke highly of Edmonds-Mares in an interview with The Beat. “Julie really showed me what a strong city manager is,” said Tran. “She knows that I will always see her as one of the most professional city managers. I know that despite her departure, I will be seeing her around city government somewhere across our great valley.”

At the top of this Tuesday’s June 4 City Council meeting, Steve McHarris was appointed, and then dove right into his new role of Interim City Manager, sitting on the dais where items like Community Development Block Grant allocations, approval of a vendor for a new digital billboard on Barber Court, and an update on a City Council Rules Subcommittee were discussed ‘til midnight.

The approval of the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 operating budget and the 2019-2024 Capital Improvement Program, though on the evening’s agenda, had to be put off for another time — most likely next week, during a special meeting.

And McHarris is locked in and ready to work. He firmly believes that the city services provided to families, individuals, and businesses in Milpitas are some of the best in the county, if not the whole Bay Area. “I fully enjoy this community. Every aspect of this community,” said McHarris. “Working in planning or community outreach…listening to the residents, and their needs and concerns. Trying to assist the council in any way possible to move agendas that are positive, sustainable…fiscally and environmentally, for the community. Healthy lifestyles, healthy families. Those are all the beautiful attributes of working and living in a city like Milpitas. So I’m happy to advance all of those goals and aspirations.”

 

Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works with nonprofit organizations to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also an author; her first book will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in mid-2019. Her YouTube channel, which features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment, has amassed thousands of subscribers. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s founder.

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