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Council Votes to Hire Bobadilla as City Manager, Jalili as Interim

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By Jorge Casuso

June 8, 2021 -- The Santa Monica City Council Tuesday night unanimously voted to hire Montebello City Manager René Bobadilla as the new city manager.

The Council also unanimously voted to bring back former City Manager John Jalili to serve as interim city manager during the transition period when Lane Dilg leaves the post in two weeks.

The votes -- with Councilmember Gleam Davis changing her initial vote opposing Bobadilla -- were made after a more than three-hour closed session.

"Let's get him on board," said City Manager Sue Himmelrich, who made the motion.

In a statement released after the vote Himmelrich said, “René is an experienced city manager whose more than decade of experience leading cities in eastern Los Angeles County will allow him to hit the ground running.

“René is an extremely affable and energetic leader who has a deep grasp of complex fiscal management and municipal operations," Himmelrich said.

Jones of the Bay

The hiring of both Bobadilla and Jalili are pending negotiations of their contracts.

Bobadilla will make a dramatic leap from running a predominantly Latino city of some 62,000 in the San Gabriel Valley to managing an international beach destination of some 93,000 residents and nearly 10 million annual visitors.

In Santa Monica, Bobadilla will oversee an annual budget of $705.5 million and 1,923 employees, compared to Montebello's $161.2 million budget and 467 employees.

It is not clear how long Jalili -- who served as Santa Monica city manager for 15 years before retiring in 1999 -- will hold the interim position ("City Manager John Jalili Revisits Past and Peers into Future," October 22, 1999).

But his experience running City Hall should prove invaluable in helping during the transition when Dilg, who has held the post on an interim basis since April 2020, leaves to relocate with her family to the Washington, D.C. area.

Since retiring in 1999, Jalili -- who has been credited with helping transform Santa Monica into a bustling world class tourist and entertainment center -- has served as interim city manager for several South Bay cities.

Under Bobadilla, Montebello is expected to see an anticipated surplus in the upcoming fiscal year after experiencing several years of budget deficits and will have nearly $6 million more to spend with a voter-approved sales tax increase last year.

Before being hired as Montebello City Manager in 2019, Bobadilla served as City Manager of Pico Rivera from 2014 to 2018.

Prior to that, he was city manager of Huntington Park, where he served from September 2012 to June 2014, and of El Monte from January 2010 to September 2012.

Before being hired by El Monte, Bobadilla worked for ten years as a civil engineer for Los Angeles County. He has also worked as an engineer in the private sector.

Born and raised in El Monte, Bobadilla graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He holds a Master of Public Administration from Villanova University.

Before Tuesday's night's votes, the Council held what is likely a record six closed-door sessions ("Council to Try 6th Time to Pick City Manager," June 7, 2021).

During the usually secretive search, Bobadilla's name was leaked ("Council Expected to Hire Montebello City Manager," June 1, 2021).

The Council was also left with one less vote when Councilmember Kevin McKeown abruptly announced his retirement ("McKeown Abruptly Retires," May 26, 2021).

The leak prompted Mayor Himmelrich to place an item on Tuesday's agenda directing staff to draft a "Code of Conduct and Ethics" for City officials that can be enforced ("Mayor Pushes for Ethics Code After Name of City Manager Finalist Leaked," June 4, 2021).

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