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SLO’s next city manager may already be on the city’s payroll

Derek Johnson, San Luis Obispo city manager.
Derek Johnson, San Luis Obispo city manager.

The San Luis Obispo City Council has decided to conduct an internal search to select its next city manager.

City Manager Katie Lichtig announced earlier this month that she was leaving to become Santa Monica’s new chief operating officer and assistant city manager.

The city has multiple employees qualified to be city manager, but only Assistant City Manager Derek Johnson has expressed his interest in the position, Lichtig said in an email Thursday.

“The council provided unanimous direction to move forward with the next steps in the process, which includes a closed-session assessment of Johnson at the beginning of September to vet him for skills and fit,” Lichtig wrote.

Before the meeting, the council is requesting employee and public feedback through a survey “on the immediate priorities and long-term objectives for the city manager.” The survey will be available on the city’s website (www.slocity.org) on Friday (Aug. 18) through Aug. 30.

Johnson has worked for the city since 2011, formerly serving as the community development director. He assumed the assistant city manager role in 2015, serving as interim finance and information technology director for about six months.

“The move to assistant city manager was part of a purposeful succession planning effort, given his interest in city management, extensive public sector experience, and success in managing large scale projects and operations involving significant public engagement, including the update of the City’s General Plan,” Lichtig said.

Lichtig said the “succession planning effort” means that Johnson got additional experience and was hoping to be considered for city manager when the opening occurred.

Johnson previously served as the community development director for the city of Capitola between 2010 and 2011. Johnson was a director of long-range planning for the county of Santa Barbara from 2006 to 2010. And he served as the general manager of the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District from 1996 to 2006.

Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara in Environmental Studies and completed the United States Army Communications and Combat School.

Lichtig’s last day working for the city of San Luis Obispo will be Sept. 28.

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