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Santa Monica Council Makes In-House Selection for Interim City Manager

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

December 19, 2014 -- Veteran Santa Monica municipal employee Elaine Polachek was named interim City manager on Tuesday. She will assume the role at the end of January when Rod Gould officially steps down. 

Polachek – who is currently the assistant City manager, the number two post at City Hall -- has been working for the City since 1984, except for a brief period in the private sector in the 1990s. 

She was the executive director of the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corp., now known as the Santa Monica Pier Corp., from 1984 to 1995. Polachek’s other roles have been director of community maintenance, open space manager and deputy City manager.  

 “We look forward to working with you, Elaine,” Mayor Kevin McKeown said after announcing her appointment, which was made during the closed-session portion of the meeting when personnel items and litigation are discussed. “It’s been a pleasure working with you for years, and congratulations.” 

Polachek will make $27,452 per month in her new role, McKeown said.  
“I really appreciate the confidence you’re showing in me,” Polachek told the council. “And I will do my best along with the rest of our staff to make sure that we’re working hard and implementing the policies you come forward with.” 

Polachek’s appointment could signal the council would prefer to look in-house for its next City manager. She declined to answer a question from The Lookout on whether she planned to apply for the job. 

“At this time, I’m focused on transitioning to my role as interim City manager,” Polachek wrote in an email. 

But with a slow-growth majority on the dais for the first time in many years, Council members might prefer to look outside Santa Monica. Many people in the slow-growth camp have deemed Gould’s tenure as one with a pro-development theme.

The past two government heads were selected from elsewhere, with Lamont Ewell taking over in 2005 out of San Diego and Gould arriving in early 2010 from Poway in San Diego County. 

The last time a Santa Monica employee was appointed as City manager was in 1999, when Susan McCarthy was elevated from the assistant position. Like Polachek, she had already had a long career with the City. 

The search for a new City manager is expected to begin sometime next year. 
Gould announced his resignation in August. The announcement came two months after he controversially rescinded a job offer to slow-growth activist Elizabeth Riel as the head of the City’s communications efforts.  

Several people alleged the reversal was due to politics because Riel had worked in campaigns in 2006 to support McKeown and oppose fellow council member and rival Pam O’Connor.  

Riel sued the City and Gould, alleging her First Amendment rights had been violated. She has since dropped Gould’s name from the suit, but is still in litigation with the City.  

Gould did not mention the Riel affair in his resignation statement to the press.  “I've concluded that after 29 years of city management in five cities, it's time to reset my work-life balance," Gould wrote. "The next phase of my career will involve more teaching, consulting, volunteering, and service to my profession and less night, weekend, holiday and vacation work."

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