City Manager Alan Piombo, whose more than three-year tenure in Mill Valley, first as police chief and then as city manager, was laden with a whiplash-inducing amount of turbulence and innovative triumph, announced this week that he plans to retire in the fall.
“As I have already shared with City Council and our department heads, I intend to retire later this year,” Piombo, who previously worked for the San Rafael Police Department, said at the city’s March 7th council meeting. “In October, I will have worked in public service in Marin County for 31 years. When I came to Mill Valley in 2019 as the chief of police, I never imagined how events would unfold, the challenges we would face, and the opportunities I would have to work with such a smart, talented, and supportive City Council, staff, and community. I am sharing this announcement now so we can move forward with a recruitment process and transition in our next City Manager without the need for interim support.”
For Alan Piombo, 2020 began with the bizarre and has careened from the rewarding to the tragic and everything in between ever since. Hired as police chief in early 2019, Piombo became the interim city manager upon Jim McCann’s decision to retire in early 2020. Things got weird quickly, as a former Tam High School student was arrested after he allegedly admitted to walking near the school with a replica AK-47 style rifle and wearing a pre-pandemic mask in an attempt to record a Snapchat video.
The Bay Area-wide shelter in place on March 17 brought monumental change to every aspect of the Mill Valley community and beyond, and Piombo steered the city through the myriad ramifications of COVID-19, including spearheading a multi-city effort to create a framework for outdoor dining that blossomed all over town. The result – a ministerial approval system for the private use of both public and private spaces – was trailblazing. Restaurants embraced the thrill of outdoor dining. Fitness facilities repurposed any outdoor space they could find to host workouts. Hair and nail salons pampered their clients in the open air. Al fresco, everywhere.
City officials at all levels were deeply engaged from the outset, but when it came to the mechanics of making it happen, Piombo’s style – how, not if, now, not when – prevailed. Mill Valley and all of Marin County were kept afloat by Piombo’s work, and he was honored for that work in September 2021 at the Spirit of Marin Awards.
Piombo also provided a steady hand as the council navigated a long overdue, much-needed local conversation on issues of racial violence and systemic inequality in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and many others, as well as the need for a DEI Task Force that eventually became MVFREE. “You couldn’t have expected a crazier six-month graduate program in becoming a city manager,” Councilmember Sashi McEntee said in 2021. “We really saw how you rose to the occasion and how you were adaptive and creative and always positive and you make friends wherever you go and connect with people.”
City officials said they have engaged with Heather Renschler, president of Ralph Andersen & Associates, to work with the City Council to conduct the recruitment, beginning at the next council meeting on March 21. City officials expect the recruitment to begin in April, with applications due and preliminary screenings in June, and a candidate list available for the newly seated City Council to review in July.
“We commend Alan for his leadership over the past two years, in which his quick, smart actions helped us weather the pandemic and economic downturn. His efforts protected our community as he developed a cost-efficient budget and enacted programs to support local merchants,” said Mayor John McCauley. “(Piombo is) leaving the City in a strong position for the future.”
“As someone who grew up in Mill Valley and worked in the Mill Valley Police Department for 37 years, I have seen many City Managers over the years,” said Vice Mayor Jim Wickham. “Alan has to be one of the best – he is proactive, engages with the community and is someone that prioritizes and uplifts staff along the way. We are fortunate to have had him step into this role during such a challenging time and leading our City so capably.”
As City Manager, Piombo oversees a budget of approximately $32 million and an organization of 150 full-time employees across eight departments that collectively serve a community of nearly 14,000 residents. Piombo serves as the chief administrative officer of the City and provides leadership to the organization in the implementation of City Council policies.
“I would like to express my gratitude to the Council and our community for entrusting me with the leadership of the City,” Piombo said. “While I could never have predicted the events that marked my tenure as City Manager, I am thankful for having such a smart, strong, and resilient Council, community, and staff team to work with to achieve our goals as a City. I am proud of the work we accomplished, and I will leave knowing the City is in a strong position for whatever comes next.”
“We want to thank and acknowledge Alan for his leadership and creative vision that provided invaluable support during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Paula Reynolds, the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce Director of Operations, Programs & Advocacy. “Alan immediately dove into collaborations with colleagues across the County to meet the new challenges, and thanks to his commitment, developed a new approval process that allowed businesses to operate outdoors, remaining open amongst the ever-changing health restrictions. We are fortunate to have had Alan at the helm during this difficult time.”