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Scott Steepleton, Editor
12:03 pm PDT April 30, 2021

The resume for Malibu’s interim city manager shows a couple decades of government experience in Ventura County, most recently in Camarillo as the temporary, part-time and ongoing position of assistant city manager.

Steven McClary has also held executive positions in Fillmore and Ojai and, in the later 1990s, he was a newspaper editor in a town a little bigger than Malibu.

On May 1, he replaces Reva Feldman, who held the city manager post since 2016.

From a pool of four, McClary won the job by unanimous vote of the five-member City Council.

In beating out the others, McClary showed compassion and a great deal of understanding when it comes to analyzing staff, council member Mikke Pierson told Surfside News.

“He really outlined for us the goals of an interim city manager and helping prepare the city for the permanent city manager.”

That nationwide search is underway.

For Pierson, among the things that set McClary apart is his “experience in a city, Ojai, that shares some things with Malibu. A state highway runs right through the middle, there’s tourism, keeping the rural community feel.”

“And he’s a complete numbers nerd,” Pierson added.

Some might be surprised McClary even landed an interview. Near the top of the resume released by the city, after his name, sticking out like a sore thumb, is something that many hiring managers would consider a deal breaker: a typo in the form of a missing word.

It’s in the second sentence, where McClary talks about his passion — and we report this verbatim — for “gaining a true understanding the communities for which I serve.”

To some, overlooking the word “of” is no big deal. Others may find it strange for a position that involves analyzing everything from a $60 million dollar budget, to wrangling 100 employees to the minutiae of county, state and federal regulations that might have some bearing on the jurisdiction you’re running.

“If someone isn’t going to pay attention to details here,” author Allen Gannett put it in a 2018 Fast Company column on resume typos, “the logic goes, where else won’t they pay attention?”

Surfside News reached out to McClary, but he did not immediately respond.

He was seeking an hourly rate that, on the high side, is the equivalent of $187,000 per year. However, financial terms have yet to be determined.

The results of those negotiations are expected to be announced May 10.

The search for a Reva replacement kicked off in earnest in January, when, through an attorney, she demanded to be let out of her latest contract for $375,000. This was a response to a public battle with newly elected council member Bruce Silverstein involving transparency and accountability at City Hall and Silverstein’s demand for it.

Presented with Feldman’s claims of harassment by Silverstein and a demand to be let go, the council moved to make that happen, holding closed sessions for the purpose of discussing hiring an interim city manager on March 10 and April 19.

No candidate names were made public and the search for a replacement had not yet taken on the cast-a-wide-net feel you’d expect when looking to fill the top government job in this destination city of 11,000 or so.

That’s to come, with help from a search firm.

Earlier this week, the council voted to end things with Feldman for $300,000 and a promise by each not to disparage the other. Then on Wednesday, the city hosted a virtual tribute to Feldman.

McClary’s formal introduction to the public Thursday evening was a bit awkward, coming at the end of a closed-session meeting via Zoom.

Paul Grisanti could have used the occasion to make his first big announcement as the new mayor, but he deferred to John Cotti, the interim city attorney, who was connected via his Zoom account for the city of Santa Paula, where he’s the city attorney.

Council members said they were looking forward to working with McClary, and he with them. But there were no rousing words for a public that might be yearning for leadership at this moment of change for Malibu.

“I’m really hopeful that this is gonna end up being a wonderful career experience for you,” Grisanti offered.

Judging by his resume, the Malibu job may well be another of what McClary calls “opportunities to allow me to fulfill my goal of completing my career in government service.”

McClary holds a bachelor's degree in communications from Pacific Lutheran University, in Tacoma, Wash. For almost two years starting in June 1995, he was editor of the Fillmore Gazette newspaper which, when it closed in 2006, was among Ventura County’s oldest papers.

His two decades in government began in 1997, when he became deputy city clerk in Fillmore and, later, administrative services manager. That job ended in 2009, when he was hired as assistant to the city manager of Ojai, population 7,400, where he remained for seven years.

For just shy of three years beginning in 2016, he was Ojai city manager, overseeing a variety of departments.

McClary took over when his predecessor abruptly resigned the day the Ojai City Council was to meet in a closed session over the predecessor’s job performance.

It was McClary who abruptly resigned the Ojai city manager job three years later, under circumstances that, according to the Ventura County Star, sound familiar to that of his predecessor.

Between January and April 2019, the Ojai City Council held several closed-session meetings to discuss McClary’s performance. On May 1 of that year, one week after the last of those meetings, McClary resigned for what city officials announced publicly were “personal reasons.”

In a statement at the time, according to the Star, McClary said, “Ojai is such a special place. It has been a privilege to work with so many wonderful individuals during my time with the city … Ojai is a community of highly dedicated individuals committed to ensuring the well-being and overall health of the community.”

The public might never know exactly how the episode was addressed during the Malibu interview.

“There was nothing negative there,” Pierson said. “We discussed his whole career.”

Even with some very public allegations of wrongdoing at City Hall that cast a cloud over her long run with the city, Reva Feldman might be having a laugh over how the search for her successor has started.

Not laughing publicly, of course, because that might be considered disparaging the city.