WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville City Council met for nearly five hours Monday night, but made no final decision on who will take over in the interim when City Manager Matt Huffaker moves on next month.
Huffaker’s last day as the city’s chief executive is Dec. 14. The City Council will hold its final regularly scheduled meeting of the year—a gathering that is often packed with emotion as the mayorship switches hands and new councilmembers are sworn in—that evening.
Watsonville Mayor Jimmy Dutra said that he is hopeful the City Council is getting “extremely” close to making a decision on who will lead the city while it undergoes a search from a permanent city manager during the first quarter of 2022.
He said he expects someone will be in the position by Dec. 15.
It is unclear if the City Council will schedule another special session before its Dec. 14 meeting.
Monday night’s meeting was the fourth time the City Council has gone behind closed doors to discuss the interim city manager position. It met on Nov. 3, Nov. 9 and Nov. 17.
At the Nov. 3 meeting, the City Council directed staff to search for two companies that would spearhead the city’s efforts to find a new city manager. One company was in charge of finding a permanent replacement and the other of finding an interim city manager.
Huffaker, the city manager in Santa Cruz County’s southernmost city for three years, was appointed as Santa Cruz’s chief executive on Nov. 9 by the Santa Cruz City Council. He is slated to start his new position on Jan. 3, 2022.
No one showed up to Monday’s meeting to give public comment before the City Council entered its closed session. There were also no comments submitted before the Nov. 17 meeting.
But multiple people submitted comments to the City Council before the first two meetings. The majority were in support of the appointment of Assistant City Manager Tamara Vides as the interim city manager.
Several city of Watsonville department heads and nonprofit leaders say Vides would be a good choice for the position and have encouraged the City Council to have her take over in the interim.
But at least two city employees have spoken against Vides’ possible appointment on the record. They say that, among other things, she does not have the leadership skills or experience needed to take over the position. Specifically, they say that her appointment would go against the city’s charter that states that a City Manager Pro Tempore is required to have served as a city manager for at least one year or have three years experience as an assistant city manager.
Vides has neither. She was reclassified as assistant city manager last October.