City manager steps down

Dave Burkland announces August retirement plans

Chico City Manager Dave Burkland announces his pending retirement after five years on the job.

Chico City Manager Dave Burkland announces his pending retirement after five years on the job.

Photo by kyle emery

Last week, Mayor Ann Schwab announced Dave Burkland’s pending retirement, effective Aug. 31. That date will mark five years since Burkland was named interim city manager following the departure of Greg Jones.

In a closed-session meeting Jan. 17, the City Council had met to evaluate Burkland’s job performance. That’s when Burkland told the council of his intentions. Burkland, who was hired in 1992 to manage housing and community-development programs, said he’s stepping down for a couple of reasons.

“I’ve been with the city for 20 years and am going to turn 60 this year,” he said. “I made the decision when I was hired [as city manager] that I would commit to staying on the job three to five years.”

Burkland is only the fourth city manager Chico’s had in the past 53 years, a string that began with Fred Davis (1959-1992), followed by Tom Lando (1992-2005) and then Jones’ relatively short stint (2005-2007).

The soft-spoken and generally upbeat Burkland said he is thankful for the opportunity and the experience the job provided, but at this point in his life he has other things he’d like to do.

“It’s going to be an opportunity to do something else,” Burkland said. “I’m not exactly sure what that’s going to be, but I definitely plan on staying in Chico and staying engaged.”

He said his father, who turned 86 on the day of this interview, had recently moved to town and that he wanted to be available to spend time with his dad.

As far as advice for his successor, Burkland urged patience.

“You have to remember to focus on what’s most important,” he said. “And that is what the city does for the community, which is to provide excellent services. And then try not to let things get to you.”

He said providing city services during the lingering economic downturn has been tough. “On one hand that’s the biggest challenge we’ve had,” he said. “But we’ve gotten through it by kind of reforming the organization, by making it smaller, but still providing the services. So, on the other hand that has been very satisfying.”

Schwab described the job of city manager as “incredibly demanding.”

“Dave’s certainly done it right, and he will continue to do so right up to his last day,” she said. “Who else has a job where each decision you make shows up on the front page of the paper the next day?”

She said she has already met with the city clerk and the city attorney to get the recruitment process started so Burkland’s replacement can be named by mid-August.

If history repeats itself, that person could well be Assistant City Manager John Rucker, who’s been on the job since 2008. Burkland was the assistant to City Manager Jones, who was the assistant to City Manager Lando, who was the assistant to City Manager Davis.

Rucker is interested in the job, though he cautioned that talking about the prospect at this stage of the game “may be putting the cart before the horse.

“I think it would be challenging,” he said, “but I’m happy to face a challenge. On the other hand, I have no illusions here. I know that other people will be looking for the job as well.”

Rucker was hired as assistant city manager after nearly 20 years at the Chico Police Department, the last few as a captain. He noted that most city managers come up through the housing and community development side of government.

“When I got the job as assistant in 2008, Dave [Burkland] was smart enough to tell me to focus on the other side of government than what I had experienced. He told me to learn about capital projects and building and neighborhood services.”

Rucker, who is 50, said he figures he still has another 10 years of service left in him.

“I really enjoy the job I have right now and will be committed to whoever gets the job if I don’t,” he said.