Los Angeles Times

Burbank mayor impressed by 'humanity' of incoming city manager

Mark Scott’s career has led him up and down California, and across the country and back, so it’s no surprise he and his wife are always debating about which region they should call home.

The 63-year-old Fresno-native spent two decades building his career in the city of Beverly Hills — while living in Glendale — six years leading Spartanburg, South Carolina before a brief stint managing Culver City and, most recently, three years helping to stabilize his hometown after the crippling effects of the economic recession.

“She says we raised our kids in the [San Fernando] Valley, so the Valley is home,” Scott said in an interview Wednesday. “When we lived in Glendale, our whole world was in Burbank.”

Come August, back to Burbank it is for the pair, after the veteran municipal executive was tapped this week to take over as the city’s permanent city manager.

“Burbank’s got great neighborhoods and people,” Scott said. “I’m anxious to get to know them.”

City officials on Tuesday wrapped up a six-month search to fill the position, which included months of closed-door meetings and public forums, with 100 applicants vying for the job. An executive search firm hired by the city narrowed the pool down to eight candidates, all of whom were interviewed by the City Council, officials said.

Impressed by Scott’s “humanity”, Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy said he emerged as a top candidate.

“This guy gets it. He loves communicating with the public — he will find the naysayers and he will sit down with them,” Gabel-Luddy said. “He will be active in our community, he will be accessible.”

For Scott, the new job comes with a huge salary boost.

According to his Fresno contract, Scott’s base salary is set at $189,000 a year, not including the city’s $20,500 annual contribution to his deferred compensation plan and his eligibility to receive a $20,000 annual bonus.

Scott’s salary in Burbank is proposed to start at $290,000 — or $24,167 a month — plus a $1,800 monthly relocation allowance for up to 18 months.

The proposed salary is far more than former City Manager Mike Flad’s $18,117 monthly starting salary.

Scott’s proposed contract states that his salary “shall never be less than the annual salary (excluding overtime and any incentive compensation) of the city’s next-highest-paid employee.”

Interim City Manager Ken Pulskamp, who worked briefly with Scott in Santa Clarita, and has kept in touch with him professionally over the years, called him bright and compassionate.

Their time as co-workers was short-lived — soon after Scott joined Santa Clarita’s staff, Beverly Hills offered him a job as city manager, an opportunity he couldn’t turn down.

“If you don’t take it, I want it,” Scott recalled his boss telling him at the time.

In Beverly Hills, Scott created an all-inclusive neighborhood association that met once a month to discuss city issues. While Burbank’s larger than Beverly Hills, it has about a fifth of Fresno’s population, making it ideal for building community partnerships, Scott said.

“I’d have to rent an arena to have a meeting with neighborhood representatives here,” Scott said, of Fresno. “In Burbank, I think I’ve got a chance to do that.”

Scott said he didn’t care much for Fresno’s “strong mayor” form of government, in which the city manager reports to the mayor while at the same time working with the City Council and overseeing all city departments.

“I just don’t want to end my career in a situation that doesn’t offer me the chance to use what talents I’ve got the way that I think they should be used,” he said.

Most recently, a measure to outsource Fresno’s trash-hauling services — which voters rejected earlier this month — in an effort to balance the budget caused tension between the mayor and City Council. Scott himself was caught up in the political drama when during the campaign he sued opponents of the measure over ballot language.

Gabel-Luddy said Scott would thrive in a “council-manager” government structure, which is how he spent most of his career.

While city manager of Fresno, Scott also headed the planning and finance departments after running into trouble recruiting qualified candidates to work for the fiscally unstable city. In recent years, the city gutted a quarter of its workforce — or about 1,200 employees — leaving it with 130 fewer police officers than when Scott came onboard.

“It weighs on you heavily when you’re affecting people’s lives like that all the time,” Scott said.

While Burbank may not be on the brink of bankruptcy, Scott will be leading a city that continues to deal with the burdens of an economic recession and the ramifications of a police force racked by allegations of misconduct and discrimination.

Councilman Bob Frutos said Wednesday the diversity of Scott’s experiences makes him well-suited to lead Burbank.

“He was the best choice,” Frutos said. “He’ll be an asset to our community to keep us moving forward."


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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