Palm Springs City Council to start process of hiring next city manager on Monday

Current City Manager Justin Clifton Clifton is believed to be leaving to take a job in the private sector after 15 months in Palm Springs. His last day will be Sept. 16.

The Palm Springs City Council will convene in Closed Session on Monday to discuss the next steps to replace outgoing City Manager Justin Clifton, who announced his resignation this week.

The 4 p.m. meeting will be held via Zoom. Residents may provide public comment by calling into the City Clerk’s Office prior to the meeting via telephone at 760-323-8204 to be added to the queue.  

“The City Council is promptly beginning next steps to recruit for a new City Manager,” Mayor Lisa Middleton was quoted as saying in a news released issue by the city Wednesday. “We are committed to ensuring a thorough, fair, inclusive process that involves public input so that we can succeed in finding the right leader to move the City of Palm Springs forward.”

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Residents may view the broadcast of the opening and closing portions of the meeting, including public comments, live online at www.palmspringsca.gov, on Palm Springs Community Television Channel 17, or on the City’s YouTube Channel

Clifton is believed to be leaving to take a job in the private sector after 15 months in Palm Springs. He plans to honor the terms of his contract and remain in place for 60 days in order to help provide a smooth transition. his last day will be Sept. 16.

He came to Palm Springs in April 2021 after serving as city manager in Sedona, Ariz., for six years. His arrival ushered in the first change in the city manager role in two decades. David Ready, who retired in December 2020 but remained as city manager until Clifton arrived, began in 2000 and served under five separate mayors. Ready was often credited with shepherding the city through an economic resurgence.

During Clifton’s tenure, the city first grappled with economic uncertainty brought on by the battle against COVID-19 — leading to job cuts at City Hall — then saw a rebound as visitors flocked to local hotels and vacation rentals. The city’s recently adopted budget shows healthy growth and Clifton was sure to build in a safety net in anticipation of a possible recession.

Clifton was also instrumental in the city’s biggest effort yet to address the homelessness crisis that is consistently mentioned as the most pressing issue by residents: The city is moving quickly to build out a homeless services center on 3.6 acres it purchased earlier this year off McCarthy Road.

It was unclear what may have led to Clifton’s decision, but behind the scenes there were reports of friction as he tried to introduce new ways of conducting business to elected and appointed officials long used to working with Ready. Clifton is not expected to address his decision further.

Clifton is not the only high-profile leader at City Hall to depart in the past year:

  • Former Assistant City Manager Marcus Fuller left for the city manager job in Rialto last summer.
     
  • Parks and Recreation Department Director Cynthia Alvarado-Crawford joined Fuller in Rialto.
     
  • Police Chief Bryan Reyes retired last August and was replaced by Andy Mills from Santa Cruz
     
  • City Clerk Anthony Mejia left for the same job in Palm Desert in February.

Who, exactly, will replace Clifton remains to be seen. One possible candidate is Gallavan, who could serve in an interim role if a new city manager is not hired by the time Clifton departs. Gallavan served as city manager in Selma, Calif., from 2018 to 2021.

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