The City of San Clemente will soon have a new chief executive after councilmembers voted unanimously on Tuesday night, Jan. 17, to appoint longtime public servant Andy Hall to the head position.
“I’m really excited to be here; I’m really, really excited about this opportunity to be here in San Clemente,” Hall, the City of Imperial Beach’s current city manager, said to the council following the vote.
Noting the complexity of Imperial Beach as a community near the U.S.-Mexico border, Hall said he’s looking forward to working in San Clemente, adding that he’s worked for large and small organizations.
“For me, I really do like the small organizations where you can get involved, get to the know the community, get to know your staff; really looking forward that,” he said, adding: “This is going to be a lot of fun.”
Concluding months of searching for someone to replace former City Manager Erik Sund, the council approved the employment agreement with Hall, who is set to make an annual salary of $270,000 under a three-year contract.
According to the employee agreement, Hall would be reviewed by the council annually, and his contract could be extended one year each Feb. 20 after the three-year term expires, unless the council votes against a renewal.
Interim City Manager Sean Joyce, who was appointed to the role in September following Sund’s departure, explained that after conducting interviews with the qualified applicants, the council—with Councilmember Gene James absent—unanimously agreed that the job offer should go to Hall.
According to an email that Joyce sent to city staff announcing Hall’s potential appointment on Jan. 12, Hall was one of more than 50 applicants considered for the role. As a chief executive, Hall has more than 20 years of experience, having worked for Imperial Beach since 2013 and for Cathedral City before that.
“Mr. Hall brings a passion for local government organizational development, a commitment to customer-service-driven municipal services, and a comprehensive understanding of local government administration to his role as City Manager of San Clemente,” Joyce said in the email.
Hall attended Arizona State University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Geography-Urban Studies. He also holds a Master of Public Administration, with high honors, from the University of Utah.
Hall has been married to his wife, Stephanie, for 35 years. Together, they have two children and two grandchildren.
Ahead of Tuesday night’s vote, councilmembers gushed over Hall, including James, who spoke about an hourslong one-on-one lunch meeting the two recently had.
“I did not take part in that interview process, but I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Mr. Hall at 11:30 (a.m.) one day, at my favorite Italian restaurant in San Diego. And I think Mr. Hall will confirm, we walked out of there at 3:30 (p.m.),” James said, noting that they spoke about several citywide issues and topics for those four hours.
“I would have to say it was one of the most amazing conversations I’ve had since being on the City Council,” James said of the meeting.
Offering further praise for Hall, who has more than 30 years of experience in municipal government, Mayor Chris Duncan acknowledged the city manager’s “ability to develop staff and really get the most out of his staff is one of the things that was critically important.”
As part of the employee agreement, if Hall is terminated, he is guaranteed a severance equaling nine months of his base pay—a point of consternation among some outspoken residents during Tuesday’s meeting.
Amanda Quintanilla said that the severance package “was not fiscally responsible,” believing that Hall should be assessed in the job before being eligible for nine months of pay.
“I think it’s being fair to wait and see how he does and then give him that severance package,” she said.
Fellow resident Ruth Martin echoed those concerns and questioned the council on whether it considered if Hall would be capable of running a city with a substantially larger population than Imperial Beach.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Imperial Beach has a population of roughly 26,100 people, while San Clemente is more than twice as large with about 64,200 residents.
As a former San Clemente councilmember, Tim Brown cited his experience making many hiring decisions for the city. He proceeded to speak highly of Hall and disputed the arguments against the employee agreement.
“The thing I learned is it’s a fairly imperfect science, the recruitment of a city manager. You don’t learn a lot about them until they get here,” Brown said. “But I can say unequivocally, based on the amount of research I’ve done on this particular hire, the council has hit a home run.”
“It’s difficult to say on one hand that it’s fiscally irresponsible to pay somebody more than their previous city and on the other hand say at the same time that they are now going to be governing a city that’s three times bigger,” he continued. “You do have to pay for that type of impact.”
Asked after the meeting what he hopes to bring to the City of San Clemente, Hall said he’s looking to maintain the town’s greatness, while also making sure he and city staff implement the goals of the council.
In terms of the city staff, Hall spoke to council’s concerns about creating stability, stating that it’ll be his responsibility to “building some capacity in the staff.”
“I think what they’d like to see is for us to create an environment where the staff is willing to stay here, grow with us and develop into a team that is stable and steady,” Hall said. “I think that’s one of the primary concerns of the council is making sure that we really stabilize things and make sure that things are very consistent and predictable for the residents.”
Joyce, who has occupied city manager positions for numerous cities in his more than 30-year career in local government, told city staff in his email that he would “continue to enjoy my time working alongside you in our collective effort to provide terrific service to the San Clemente community.”