Steven Falk, who served as Lafayette’s city manager until 2018, was recently sworn in as interim city manager in Richmond.
Falk replaces Carlos Martinez, who was fired by a split vote in late July amid labor protests and widespread condemnation by union leadership.
At a special meeting of the City Council this month, Richmond Police Officers Association President Ben Therriault asked the council to pick someone who will emphasize transparency, accountability and honesty.
“Many of us in labor believe that the answer to this is someone who is outside of the city, outside of the structure paradigm that we currently have,” Therriault said.
“Someone who understands labor, someone who understands relationships, someone who returns phone calls,” Therriault said. “The basics.”
The council seems to have granted his request to find an outsider.
Falk served 23 years as city manager in Lafayette until he resigned last September over philosophical differences with voters after a pair of ballot measures that would have allowed the city to double police patrols, add public parking and facilitate middle income housing development were soundly rejected at the polls.
“Elections have consequences, and one is that Lafayette residents deserve a city manager who is better aligned with their priorities,” Falk wrote.
He advocated for transit-oriented multifamily housing at the Lafayette BART station, but found that position untenable.
In an email, Mayor Tom Butt said Falk was “by all accounts” an effective city manager that had overseen more than 25 balanced municipal budgets, earning Lafayette a coveted AAA bond rating. He holds a master’s in public policy from Harvard University and currently teaches at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, where Councilmember Demnlus Johnson was recently a student.
Service Employees International Union Local 1021 President Gregory Everetts, who was vocal in his criticism of Martinez, said it is too soon to say what the selection of Falk as interim city manager would mean for labor relations.
He did, however, praise outgoing acting city manager Henry Gardner, who filled in for roughly two weeks between Martinez’s dismissal and Falk’s swearing-in ceremony.
“I wish he could stay,” Everetts said.
“I had a meeting with him yesterday and in the first 15 minutes I was like ‘this guy is really for the city.’ He really didn’t want to leave but he had a prior commitment somewhere else,” Everetts said.
Gardner is headed to the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Authority where he will serve as interim Chief.
Meanwhile, Falk’s contract will be brought back to the Richmond City Council for final approval Sept. 10. He is being paid $175 per hour, with an estimated compensation of more than $26,000 per month, at least through January while the city recruits a permanent manager.