Mayor vows to hire inspirational new city manager; little public comment heard in first opportunity

Only one person chose to comment Monday, taking both the entire Palm Springs City Council and individual councilmembers to task for Justin Clifton’s departure.

Palm Springs residents concerned that the current city manager is leaving after only 15 months had little to say when provided their first opportunity to address the City Council Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, the city’s mayor vowed to make the hiring process thorough and open to the public.

Driving the news: The Palm Springs City Council met in closed session at 4 p.m. to begin the process of replacing City Manager Justin Clifton, who turned in his resignation July 17 and announced his last day in the role will be in September. Prior to the closed session the public was afforded an opportunity to address councilmembers.

  • Emerging from the closed session after roughly 90 minutes, Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton said the Council had a productive meeting and had identified a number of ways to successfully move forward in hiring both an interim city manager and a permanent replacement.

  • “We would like to specifically thank the people who work for the city of Palm Springs,” Middleton said at the meeting’s conclusion. “We are going to do everything we can to reward you with a leader that will inspire you.”

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Looking back: Clifton came to Palm Springs in April 2021 after serving as city manager in Sedona, Ariz. His arrival ushered in the first change in the city manager role in two decades. Prior to his announcement, 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 the former city manager.

  • Clifton has had no further comment on his departure since telling city staff about his decision on July 18, saying, “I feel good about the work we have done together the last 15 months. There are numerous important initiatives and projects that I look forward to seeing you complete.”

What they’re saying: Only one person chose to comment Monday evening, taking both the entire Council and individual councilmembers to task for Clifton’s departure. Any written public comments delivered prior to the meeting are yet to be posted by the city.

  • “After watching and listening to several Palm Springs City Council meetings and seeing the annoying lack of preparedness by members of the City Council, frankly I would quit as well,” a caller who identified himself as John Houston said prior to the closed session. “Honestly, I’m surprised Justin lasted as long as he did and I can only hope the City Council takes my comments to heart.”

  • The caller went on to accuse councilmembers of “grandstanding,” a concern often voiced on social media sites that are not monitored by the City Council or city staff.

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