Santa Ana’s Bobb Reportedly Weighing Virginia Job

Times Staff Writer

Santa Ana City Manager Robert C. Bobb met with City Council members Friday night amid reports that he has been offered the same post in Richmond, Va., at a substantial salary increase.

Bobb, 41, spent Thursday in Virginia’s capital city being interviewed by a 13-member committee. On Friday, with the field of candidates pared to just him and Dallas Deputy City Manager Camille Barnett, Bobb went before the Richmond City Council in a closed-door session. Mayor Roy West met with reporters after the session and said that a final closed session will be held today.

“The council will reconvene (today) at noon and a decision is expected,” Richmond City Clerk Joe Ivey said.

Bobb flew back to California on Friday and met later with council members during and after a gathering at Bowers Museum.

A city official, who asked not to be identified, said that Bobb had been offered the Richmond post and had until today to decide whether to accept. The source indicated that Bobb had been offered an annual salary of about $110,000.


Present Salary

Bobb earns about $84,000 as Santa Ana city manager and has submitted a proposal for an increase to about $104,000, which would make him the highest-paid city manager in Orange County.

Santa Ana council members said they didn’t know about Bobb’s Richmond interview until they heard about it in news reports, but most said they weren’t surprised.

“When you’re hot, you’re hot,” said Vice Mayor P. Lee Johnson, adding, “I’m going to do everything I can to keep him here.”

Johnson said the council members may have “dragged our feet” in deciding whether to give Bobb a raise. He said evaluations of Bobb, City Atty. Edward C. Cooper and City Clerk Janice Guy had just been completed.

One thing that Johnson said might keep Bobb in Santa Ana is the opportunity to “rebuild” the city. “He’s got a chance to do things that nobody else is willing to do, things that most people just read about,” he said. “And he’s got a City Council that’s willing to work with him to rebuild a major city.”

“This announcement caught me entirely by surprise,” said Mayor Dan Griset, adding: “We have received a communique from the city manager that is entirely confidential. I believe he wants to get some response from each member of the council over the next day or two.

“I’d be delighted to see him remain if this is where he wants to be. We want a city manager that’s committed to serving this community,” Griset said.

“From what I understand, he’s gone,” said Councilman John Acosta, who added that he would be quite willing to approve Bobb’s raise to keep him. “I hate the thought of losing him,” he added.

Former Richmond City Manager Manuel Deese resigned in December after a seven-year stint to take a job with a data processing firm. After the resignation, Richmond officials hired a Los Angeles firm to conduct a nationwide search for a replacement and 50 applications were received.

List Trimmed

The Los Angeles recruiters whittled that list to 10 applicants and the Richmond committee in turn cut the number to five. Committee chairman Prescott Rowe said that those five and their spouses were invited to Richmond on Thursday, with one dropping out for “personal reasons.”

Rowe said that Bobb’s record in Santa Ana was considered “exemplary” by the committee. “I can only say that both candidates, in our opinion, are eminently qualified. Their answers were good and the questions they asked us showed that they had really done their homework,” he said.

Bobb took over as Santa Ana city manager in February, 1984, after serving as city manager of Kalamazoo, Mich., since September, 1976.

He has presided over some of the most turbulent political times in the city’s history while overseeing one of the most aggressive periods of development. In his first year alone, the city recorded $220 million in building activity.

More recently, a coalition of groups opposed to various council actions had threatened to recall the entire council and attempt to have Bobb fired (their slogan was “Recall Seven, Fire One.”). They subsequently collected signatures to put a proposition on Tuesday’s ballot that would impose ward elections and a directly elected mayor on the city.

But council members argue that most residents are probably pleased with development during Bobb’s tenure. “I’m telling you, the man is very good,” Johnson said. “And I think that the majority of people are very happy with the job he’s done.”

Richmond, Virginia’s capital and main port of entry, had a population of 219,429 at the time of the 1980 census.