Rachelle Rickard, who has been with the city 16 years and served as Administrative Services director for the past 15 years, could be Atascadero’s next city manager.
At its meeting Tuesday, the Atascadero City Council will consider approving her contract for the position. It will be the first time the hiring of a new city manager will be publically discussed since longtime City Manager Wade McKinney announced May 31 he was taking a job in the Southern California city of Indian Wells.
“I’m excited to be considered for the opportunity; the council had a huge responsibility in choosing the right person, but I’m happy to show them I can do this,” Rickard told The Tribune.
Rickard’s promotion is one of several options before the council. Other choices include appointing another permanent replacement from within; appointing an interim leader while the city opens a recruitment process; or appointing an interim leader while the council decides whether to appoint from within or start recruiting.
Rickard is favored by city department heads, who signed a letter earlier this month urging the council to consider her for the position. They said she’s 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 was touched and I was honored they felt that confident in me. And I appreciated it,” Rickard said of their support.
City Clerk and City Manager Assistant Marcia Torgerson said she and the department heads crafted the letter before the council went into closed session June 11 because “we didn’t want them to go in thinking about (the position) and not knowing how we felt.”
But some residents have said privately that if the council chooses to not open a recruitment process, it gives the impression that the city has something to hide.
To that, Rickard told The Tribune, “There is no bogeyman in the closet” and that previous questions, such as the city’s use of its federal earthquake funds, were audited and nothing was found other than a mistaken $1,312 invoice, which was fixed.
Rickard, 48, was the youngest person to be appointed to a director role and the first woman to be a department head in the city 15 years ago, according to the city.
Under her tenure, she’s managed all the city’s finances and overseen litigation management, risk management, personnel issues, negotiations and city contracts. She also coordinates staff reports with city department heads.
“I’ve touched a lot of projects in the community, and this would provide continuity,” she said. Rickard’s employment agreement, as proposed to the council, calls for a five-year position as city manager that could be renewed annually. Her base salary for the first year would be $149,908, with 5 percent salary bumps in the second and third years.
McKinney’s base salary in Atascadero is $157,173.