Rather than pursue an outside search for a new city manager, the Manhattan Beach City Council last week selected Bruce Moe, city finance director for the past 20 years, to lead the city.
Moe, 57, had been serving as interim city manager since December when the council put Mark Danaj on paid administrative leave and later terminated him in January without cause.
Moe’s appointment was announced at the first City Council meeting in February, drawing strong applause.
“I really appreciate the confidence the council has in me and I’m very honored and humbled to be serving in this position and will do everything I can to uphold your desires and the community’s desires with the city’s best interest at heart,” Moe said.
Councilmember Richard Montgomery said he and his council colleagues did not want to take a chance on an outsider and decided on Moe in part for his vast experience with the city going back 29 years.
"Bruce was the only person around, this council included, besides me, who was with the city during the recession," Montgomery said.
During the 2008 recession Moe worked with Councilmembers Nick Tell and Tim Lilligren to shift the city's $85 million investment fund and avoid any net losses, according to Montgomery. Today that fund totals roughly $100 million. Moe also oversaw the city's spending reduction and staff attrition to avoid any layoffs, Montgomery said.
"Those moves told us two things: that Bruce was very deft at moving money around with Nick and Tim, and number two, he knows how to run the city lean with less employees, and doing a lot more with less," Montgomery said. "He's the only person who knows where every penny is spent in the city."
Moe said the financial downturn was a challenge the city has not faced in many decades, but one they learned a lot from.
"It was one of those learning experiences that really helped us realize where our strengths were, that we had the financial resources to calm the seas," Moe said. "It was a good exercise in realizing when you need to tighten your belt you're able to do that."
Moe grew up in Los Feliz and majored in marketing at Cal State Los Angeles, going on to work as a purchasing agent for a fire equipment company. In 1989, he responded to a newspaper ad for a general services manager position with the city of Manhattan Beach.
Moe held the post, which morphed into purchasing agent, for nine years until he was named finance director in 1998.
Councilmember Steve Napolitano said the city was lucky to have Moe with his rich institutional knowledge of city finances.
"Bruce has been with the city for almost 30 years and he has the smarts, the integrity and the dedication to move us forward," Napolitano said. "He knows City Hall, he knows the staff, and they know him. Even more importantly, he knows our community—the man bleeds Manhattan Beach and he's always put service to our community before self."
Next week the City Council is expected to ratify an employment contract for Moe that includes the same $255,000 annual salary afforded Danaj along with $17,500 in annual deferred compensation. The only difference is that his severance, in the event of termination, would be for six months pay rather than 12 months and he will not receive a home loan like Danaj and former assistant city manager Nadine Nader.
"That's a plus for us," Montgomery said. "No more talk about home loans anymore."
Moe also confirmed the city would not be hiring a new assistant city manager.
Considering that Manhattan Beach has had three city managers in the past eight years, Moe said he wasn't too worried about it given his long history with the city.
"The fact I do have some history here and know the city well I think works in my favor," Moe said. "I'm just here to do the best job I can and follow the council's directives and make life better for the residents."
Before stepping into the interim city manager position in December, Moe served previously as interim city manager after the departure of Geoff Dolan in 2009 for a few weeks and later David Carmany for a few months in 2013.
He and his wife live in Orange County. They have no children. When he's not working up to 13 hour days in Manhattan Beach he enjoys photography, fine wine, good food and travel. He said if he can do them all in one trip, that's a good vacation.
"I'm super honored and humbled by the council's confidence in me," he said. "I'm really excited to continue my career here and look forward to making a difference."
—Megan Barnes contributed to this report