Council picks assistant to serve as interim city manager

Council picks assistant to serve as interim city manager

Michele Ellson
Liz Warmerdam

City Council members have asked Assistant City Manager Liz Warmerdam to serve as Alameda’s interim city manager when the city’s current manager, John Russo, leaves on May 1.

The City Council voted unanimously last week to offer Warmerdam, who started her municipal career in Alameda and came back as assistant city manager in 2013, the interim city manager’s job. The council will vote on a contract for Warmerdam at a date to be announced.

“I’m looking forward to working with Liz Warmerdam in this capacity. I really think it’s an opportunity for us to get to know her and to see her strengths,” Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer said.

Spencer said it was nice that the council offered Warmerdam the interim job on a unanimous vote. “Obviously she will have the full support of the council as we go into this next chapter,” she said.

Russo called Warmerdam “one of the best public servants I’ve had the opportunity to work with.” He called her bright, hard working and principled.

“I’m glad to see that the council saw this as an easy decision,” Russo said.

Warmerdam said she was honored to be offered the job.

“I was honored to be offered the position of interim city manager and feel it’s my duty and responsibility to our exceptional city staff and deserving community to provide a seamless transition from now until a permanent city manager is selected," she said. "The City Council is entrusting the stewardship of the organization to me, and I pledge to do my best to meet that challenge.”

Warmerdam, an Alameda resident, spent five years in the Army, serving in Germany and Korea before being honorably discharged at the rank of captain. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Rochester, where she played on an NCAA Division III championship women’s soccer team, and master’s degrees in public administration and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Warmerdam started her municipal career in Alameda in 1997 as a management analyst for the city’s community development department. After a few years in Alameda she moved on to Pinole, where she worked as an assistant to that city’s city manager and a redevelopment project manager.

She spent almost a decade in Hercules, where she worked as an assistant city manager, a consultant for the city’s redevelopment agency, interim finance director and deputy city manager. Her accomplishments in Hercules included opening a public library and adding territory to the city’s redevelopment area.

As interim finance director during a tumultuous time for that city, which faced major budget deficits, charges that a former city manager had steered millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to a company he owned and a recall election, Warmerdam eliminated a $6 million deficit through labor concessions, cuts, layoffs and restructuring.

A City Council with five brand-new members elevated her to the position of interim city manager in 2011, charging her with the task of continuing to pull the city from the brink of bankruptcy and restoring trust.

As Alameda’s assistant city manager – a job she bested dozens of other candidates to win – Warmerdam has managed the city’s budgets and has worked to address the city’s structural deficits while overseeing the city’s parks, library, finance and human resources departments. As the city’s top administrator, she will work with a council whose members have very different priorities and viewpoints, unlike the prior council, which worked in near-unanimity for four years.

The city is just entering a new, two-year budget cycle and is preparing to address development proposals at Alameda Point and in other areas of the city. City leaders have also been seeking additional ways to trim pension and retiree medical liabilities for city workers.

At its meeting Tuesday, the council is expected to discuss the process for hiring a permanent city manager. Decisions the council will consider Tuesday include whether to hire for the position internally or hire a search firm to recruit candidates. The council could hire a permanent manager by the end of 2015.

Related: City to welcome a new assistant manager