Rachelle Rickard will assume Atascadero city manager post on Friday

Atascadero City Council unanimously approved her contract Tuesday

clambert@thetribunenews.comJune 26, 2013 

Rachelle Rickard, administrative services director of the city of Atascadero, will take over as city manager at noon Friday.

Rickard’s employment agreement – approved unanimously by the Atascadero City Council on Tuesday -- calls for a five-year position as city manager that could be renewed annually. Her base salary for the first year is $149,908, with 5 percent salary bumps in the second and third years.

She succeeds current City Manager Wade McKinney, who announced May 31 he was taking a job in the Southern California city of Indian Wells. His base salary in Atascadero is $157,173.

Rickard, 48, has worked for the city for 16 years, 15 of those spent in her current position. At the time of her hiring, she was the youngest person to be appointed to a director role and the first female department head ever appointed in the city, according to a news release.

The city will pay her a $500 monthly vehicle allowance; contribute 5 percent of her base salary toward a retirement plan each pay period, and pay for Rickard’s membership fees and “fines” assessed by civic organizations in which she’s involved.

Rickard will also receive a payout of 500 hours from her “historic leave bank,” an amount of vacation time she had accrued before the city initiated a cap last year. Rickard currently has a balance of 749.61 hours.

The payout, estimated at $29,065, is calculated based on her salary as administrative services director, and will cost the city less money than had she retained the 500 hours and received a payout at her city manager salary, noted Marcia McClure Torgerson, assistant to the city manager.

Mike Brennler, a former Atascadero mayor, expressed concerns at Tuesday’s meeting about some of the benefits in Rickard’s contract and said “open-ended language” could negatively impact the city’s fiscal health.

In addition, he said it seems inappropriate for the city to use taxpayer money to pay fines and other costs to service groups, and not to stipulate a cap on those costs in the contract.

Rickard was favored by city department heads, who signed a letter urging the council to consider her for the position. They said she had demonstrated strong leadership in recent projects such as the restoration of the historical City Administration Building, developing and implementing a financial strategy, and leading Atascadero through the recession.

“I have worked with Rachelle over the last 11 years and know her strong work ethic, her commitment to see our city prosper and have seen firsthand the respect she has earned from all employees and our community,” Mayor Tom O’Malley said in a news release. “We are proud of our accomplishments as a city even through tough economic times and will continue to work towards our community inspired goals.”

Rickard previously worked as a senior account and senior manager for Santa Maria-based firm Moss, Levy & Hartzheim. She received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in accounting from Cal Poly.

 “I am truly thankful for this wonderful opportunity, and am quite cognizant of the duties and obligations being entrusted to me by this Council,” she said in a news release.

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