From McKinney to Rickard in Atascadero



Sparks flew at the June 25 meeting of the Atascadero City Council, but, as expected, the council still unanimously named Rachelle Rickard the new city manager.

Despite the pointed protestations of former Atascadero mayor and councilmember Mike Brennler—who spoke three separate times during public comment—Rickard was selected for the position after the entirety of the city’s executive management endorsed her in a June 7 letter.

Rickard, 48, is a 16-year city employee and the city’s current administrative services director. She’ll receive a base salary of just less than $150,000, plus benefits in the first year of her five-year contract, with five percent salary bumps in her second and third years. City Attorney Brian Pierik said Rickard’s salary and benefit package will save the city more than $43,000 in her first year, compared with the cost of employing current city manager Wade McKinney.

While much of the meeting was taken up by elaborate and maudlin goodbyes to and from McKinney, the prickly Brennler provided the only opposition to the power transfer from McKinney to his hand-picked successor.

In one particularly testy exchange, Brennler animatedly explained his concerns with “glaring issues” in Rickard’s and McKinney’s contracts when the public comment buzzer cut him off at the three-minute limit.

From across the dais, McKinney glared angrily at Brennler and sat in stony silence. As Brennler tried to continue over the buzzer, Mayor Tom O’Malley half-heartedly thanked Brennler for his comments and told him he couldn’t continue speaking.

“Ah, so you don’t care. Very good,” Brennler said, sarcastically, as he returned to his seat. 

As New Times reported in 2009, Brennler and O’Malley almost came to blows on two separate occasions during Brennler’s contentious stint on the council from 2006 to 2008.

On this particular evening, Brennler’s concerns largely stemmed from what he deemed a “fiscal failure,” the city’s much-chronicled decision to decline capping paid vacation and sick leave hours for city employees.

Brennler has been harping on the subject for years, despite the fact that, as O’Malley and Councilwoman Heather Moreno explained, recent budgeting measures have allocated sufficient funds for potential payoffs.

Rickard will officially take over for McKinney at noon on June 28.

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