Burbank City Manager Mike Flad announced on Monday plans to leave the Media City and take the top post at the city of South Gate, stunning city officials who expected him to retire in the city where he had spent more than two decades building his career.
Flad, now 46, became the second-youngest city manager in Burbank's history when he assumed the top job in 2008 and has worked for the city for nearly 23 years.
“It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me on the face of it,” said Councilman David Gordon on Tuesday. “My understanding was that the city manager had plans to stay in Burbank for a long time.”
In February, the city extended Flad's contract for five years to December 2016, with an initial salary of $18,117 per month and an annual 3% increase after two years.
“I had hopes his plan would be to retire from the city of Burbank,” said Councilman Jess Talamantes. “There were some big challenges he had to deal with. As far as I was concerned, he was doing a fine job.”
The most notable of those challenges was overseeing a police department roiled by outside investigations into excessive use-of-force, and lawsuits filed by current and former officers.
Flad said Tuesday that he was approached about six weeks ago by a recruiter for the position in South Gate — a much poorer city than Burbank.
“It just seemed like a good fit for me,” he said, adding that the hiring process included a written application and four interviews.
His contract could be finalized in time for a vote by the South Gate City Council on Sept. 25, in which case he estimated his last day at Burbank would be Oct. 26.
The terms of the contract, which are still being negotiated, are very similar to his current contract with Burbank, Flad said.
“This was not a move for large financial gain,” he said.
If the move comes to pass, it will be a much different landscape — from movie studios and a solid economy with low crime rates to a South L.A. bedroom community sandwiched between Lynwood and Cudahy.
“I think that I can bring my skill set to help them with their visioning for the future,” Flad said.
South Gate, with a population of 94,396, is similar in size to Burbank, but different in demographics. South Gate is 94.8% Latino — compared to Burbank's roughly 24% Latino population — and has an unemployment rate of 11.4%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“I suspect that the challenges that South Gate faces, which I think are substantial, are probably something that he relished taking on,” said Mayor Dave Golonski.
If the contract with South Gate is finalized, Flad would be replacing George Troxcil, who was appointed to the post just eight months ago after a nearly year-long stint as the interim city manager. Troxcil had taken on the dual interim role while also serving as the city's police chief — a post he held for two years after a 30-year career with the department.
The news of Flad's move comes as Burbank continues the process of finding a permanent police chief, meaning the city may have to fill two top executive jobs at the same time. And since the city manager supervises the police chief, that recruitment could be difficult, city officials said.
“It's a challenge to bring aboard a new executive when they don't know who they're going to be working for,” Golonski said.
That's just as well for Gordon, who had been advocating holding off on the police chief recruitment.
“I made it clear last week that I did not think it's an appropriate time to replace current Chief LaChasse, and with the events of the past 24 hours, that goes very much more so,” Gordon said. “The least amount of changes in the city leadership, at this point in time, is probably the best for the city.”
Burbank also has a City Council election coming up in the spring, with three seats up for contention.
“The announcement was so sudden, so we have to get together and discuss how we're going to proceed as a council,” Talamantes said. “We might have to put the police search off.”