City Hires Interim Assistant City Manager

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

December 4, 2023

City of Morro Bay Interim Assistant City Manager Steve Conway

Morro Bay has hired a temporary assistant city manager taking over for the former ACM who left for the greener pastures and the same job in Sunnyvale.

City Manager Yvonne Kimball pegged retired Los Gatos finance director, Steve Conway, as the Interim Assistant City Manager/Administrative Services Director, filling in for former ACM/ASD, Sarah Johnson-Rios, who left in early October after a couple of years on the job. She came here from Paso Robles and started in Sunnyvale as their assistant city manager on Oct. 23, making nearly three times as much money as she did in Morro Bay.

Under the current City Salary Schedule, the assistant city manager/administrative services director job pays from $144,000 (at Step 1) to $175,000 (Step 5), plus benefits and retirement. Conway was hired making “$87.56 per hour,” Kimball’s report to Council said, “which is within the hourly compensation range for the Assistant City Manager/Administrative Services Director position. By law his hours are limited to no more than 960 per fiscal year.” That’s because Conway is officially retired and under the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) he is limited in the number of hours he can work in a government interim position like this and still collect his pension.

“Under CalPERS rules,” Kimball said, “the compensation paid to retirees cannot be less than the minimum nor exceed the maximum monthly base salary paid to other employees performing comparable duties, divided by 173.333 to equal the hourly rate” [$182,118 a year divided by 12 months, divided by 173.333 hours a month = $87.56/Hr.]. He will not be getting the insurance benefits of regular City employees, which will save the taxpayers a little bit of money.

“Retired annuitants,” Kimball said, “cannot receive any other benefit, incentive, compensation in lieu of benefit or other form of compensation in addition to this hourly pay rate. Therefore, compensation will be no more than the hourly rate of the Assistant City Manager/Administrative Services Director position, and those amounts have been programmed in the current year FY 2023/24 approved budget.”

Kimball went looking for an interim ACM right after Johnson-Rios gave notice. “Following notice of Ms. Johnson-Rios’ resignation,” Kimball said, “Staff explored options for pursuing an Interim while we recruit for a permanent Assistant City Manager/Administrative Services Director. As of Oct. 5, 2023, the City is actively recruiting for this position.” Johnson-Rios helped find Conway to take over for her before she left. 

Though readers might think an assistant city manager’s job is like the vice president with not much to do, this is a big job with a lot of responsibilities.

According to the City’s website, the assistant city manager is “Under general administrative direction of the City Manager, plans, organizes, and directs the activities of the Administrative Services Department by developing and implementing efficient and effective financial policies, plans and reporting systems to ensure the City’s long-term fiscal health; oversees Information Systems and may oversee Human Resources; coordinating assigned activities with City departments and outside agencies; organizing and coordinating other programs and projects as assigned by the City Manager; and representing the City Manager as assigned.” They also assume the manager’s duties and responsibilities when that person is out of town. 

But the biggest job will be getting information together for the next City Budget, which is due to go to the City Council for approval by next June.

Meanwhile the City is advertising the position now and according to the notice on the City website, the salary ranges from $149,829 to $182,118 annually. The job flyer doesn’t give a deadline date for applications.

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