Adios to City Hall

Tucson City Manager Richard Miranda calls it quits

Tucson City Manager Richard Miranda announced his resignation last week.

In a two-paragraph letter to Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and the City Council on Friday, May 23, Miranda said that "after nearly 40 years of service with the City of Tucson, I feel that is time to make this move for my family and me."

Rothschild said he was fortunate to have Miranda at the helm of the city bureaucracy when he became mayor in 2011.

"He has been a steady, stabilizing presence, well-respected by City staff and the community, whose integrity and devotion to Tucson both are exceptional," Rothschild said in a statement. "I have benefitted from his counsel on many occasions. I respect his decision and wish him and his family all the best. He will leave some very big shoes to fill."

Miranda's last day on the job is July 31. He became city manager about three years ago, after the City Council fired Mike Letcher in 2011.

City Council members said they were not surprised to hear that Miranda was stepping down, so Miranda's departure appeared to have been in the works for a while.

Miranda's resignation comes as the city is wrapping up yet another tough budget year. The city had a budget shortfall of roughly $30 million when Miranda started the budget process. That has largely been whittled down, but many of Miranda's suggestions, including changes to the bus system and cuts to parks and outside agencies, were largely scrapped by the City Council.

Council members expect that one of the top assistants in Miranda's office will become the interim city manager: Kelly Gottschalk, Martha Durkin or Albert Elias (brother of Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias).

"One thing that Richard has done well is assemble an outstanding team in the manager's office," Councilwoman Karin Uhlich said. "The team in the management office is very strong and that's going to be important because we'll need strong leadership as we search for a permanent replacement."

Council members appear to be leaning toward a national search for a replacement.

"That's always my first instinct," City Councilwoman Regina Romero said. "Even though we know we have a lot of talent here, we want to give whatever talent we have here the opportunity to compete in an open process that will only make them look better if they take over."

Turnover in the City Manager's Office has been rapid. In the last decade, the city has had four managers: James Keene (who left in 2005), Mike Hein (who was fired in 2007), Mike Letcher (who was fired in 2011) and Miranda, a Tucson native who had a 34-year career with the police department that culminated with a decade as chief of police before moving to the city's administration.

Council members say they'd like to find someone who would last longer in the job.

"Maybe not the duration of a (Pima County Administrator Chuck) Huckelberry, but certainly somebody who is going to hang out longer than any of these guys did," Councilman Steve Kozachik said. "Stability is the right word."

Councilman Paul Cunningham said he thought Miranda had "a bang-up job" as manager.

"The streetcar is done," Cunningham said. "The last budget is done. The golf courses got privatized and ostensibly saved, so golf will go on. We got the road bond and have repaved a bunch of roads. Downtown is humming along—there are a few tweaks that need to be done but at least it's headed in the right direction. Those are the things that needed to happen."

Cunningham added that Miranda was likely weary of the responsibilities of the job.

"Being city manager is an 80-hour-a-week job," Cunningham said. "Once you've accomplished some of the goals you set out to accomplish, you don't want to do the detail stuff for 80 hours a week."

Kozachik said the job is "a hell of a position. You're trying to manage seven different personalities and, at the same time, an organization as large as ours. Quite frankly, I'm glad he's leaving this way because the last two guys got fired and if it had come to that, it would have made it much more difficult to recruit somebody who is quality."

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