After nearly a year without a permanent city manager, Santa Clara has hired San Bruno City Manager Jovan Grogan to fill the role. Grogan’s strengths include a background in urban planning, in-depth experience in advancing development projects, especially when it comes to housing, and stabilizing municipal finances.
Grogan has been the city manager of San Bruno since 2018. Prior to that, he was Deputy city manager in Berkeley and Concord. He worked in the Office of the County Administrator in Tompkins County, NY, the Oakland City Manager’s Office and at the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) in Washington, D.C. Grogan also was a senior management advisor with Management Partners, a consulting firm specializing in operational improvements for local governments.
The new city manager has experience with many of the important long-term issues facing Santa Clara. In both Concord and Berkeley, he worked on projects to improve those cities’ fiscal stability. In Concord, he also found creative ways to manage the city’s unfunded liability while increasing police budgets by capping retiree benefits.
Grogan has been able to launch significant new housing programs.
In Berkeley, he managed the purchase of several properties for affordable housing. As San Bruno City Manager, he was able to bring to completion a major real estate investment by a developer to transform the dying Tanforan Mall into a housing and tech campus.
His work in Berkeley will certainly be an asset for Santa Clara in its relations with Santa Clara University, as both cities share similar challenges with student housing and “town and gown” issues.
Grogan has a bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Studies and a Master of Science in Regional Planning, both from Cornell University. He’s also a member of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and serves on the Board for the California Division of ICMA and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) Board of Directors.
Grogan’s starting salary is $405,056. By contract, he’ll receive a 2% cost of living adjustment the first year, but further merit raises will be solely at council discretion. He will also receive $8,600 prorated annually in a 401(a) or 457 IRS plan*, three weeks of vacation to start, 120 hours of sick leave and a $520 monthly auto allowance. However, he won’t get any management leave until after his first year.
Although this is less than the former city manager’s package, Santa Clara will likely continue to top the compensation list for California city managers.
The contract also clearly states that the city manager is an at-will employee and serves at the pleasure of the city council — and may be dismissed at any time without a stated reason. The only exception is that he cannot be dismissed within 90 days before an election and 90 days after a new council member is seated.
The contract also includes a graduated agreement for compensation in the event that he’s dismissed without cause: six months compensation before Nov. 2, 2023, eight months compensation between Nov. 2, 2023 and Jan. 1, 2024 and 10 months compensation if he’s dismissed after January 2024.
None of this applies if the dismissal is for cause and one of the causes can be violations of the City’s ethics code. The contract is explicit that “no past practices” are implied in the contract.
*IRS 401(a) and 457 tax deferred accounts are used by public employers to boost the pensions of highly paid employees that would be otherwise capped by IRS and CalPERS regulations.