Esther Kang

Manhattan Beach taps Fremont’s assistant city manager to helm city

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Mark Danaj comes from the city of Fremont in the San Francisco Bay area. Photo from LinkedIn

Mark Danaj comes from the city of Fremont in the San Francisco Bay area

The Manhattan Beach City Council has ended a three-month search process for a new city manager by tapping Mark Danaj, the assistant city manager of Fremont, California. The selection will be finalized next Tuesday with the Council’s vote to approve the contract.

“Mark is really well-versed in open and transparent government,” Mayor Amy Howorth said. “He’s really confident with technology and innovation. I think our city runs really well and we’ve got a terrific staff, and I don’t think we have giant systemic problems. But going from good to great is always a delicate balance and I think Mark is going to be the person to get us there.”

The city will pay Danaj a base salary of $250,000, which is $37,000 more than what his predecessor Dave Carmany earned. Danaj will also receive benefits as well as relocation, temporary housing and mortgage assistance from the city. As assistant city manager of Fremont, he earned $212,820 as base pay, according to state employee records. Manhattan Beach will also provide Danaj a low-interest loan of up to $1.7 million for the purchase of a home in Manhattan Beach or in a nearby area.

“We did negotiate,” Howorth said of the city manager’s higher pay. “…To get someone with vision and of this caliber, we need to have a competitive salary.”

Danaj earned his MBA from the University of Notre Dame and a B.A. in economics and political science from Marquette University. He graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program and is a credentialed by the International City/County Management Association.

Fremont is a suburban city of 215,000 in Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area, located on the northeast edge of the Silicon Valley. Since starting the assistant city manager post in January 2011, he has overseen the human resources department, information technology services and the city clerk’s office. He also leads the city’s labor relations and budget teams.

Prior to joining the city of Fremont, Danaj spent eight years as a senior staff member for the city of San Jose, where he served as the human resources director and facilitated service-delivery outcomes, performance measures and budget development of five city departments, including HR, finance, general services, information technology and public works. For 11 years prior to that, he served in a variety of roles for northern Chicago’s Lake County, including assistant county manager, director of HR and the risk & communications department.

In early February, Manhattan Beach enlisted recruiting firm Teri Black & Company to undertake the search process for a new city manager. This move came four months after the council abruptly dismissed without cause former city manager Dave Carmany. About a week after his termination, the council hired as interim city manager John Jalili, a longtime Manhattan Beach resident who served 15 years as Santa Monica’s city manager before retiring.

Finance director and acting city manager Bruce Moe said the recruiting firm identified 38 qualifying candidates across the country and narrowed the pool down to nine. The council selected a final four and interviewed the candidates over the first weekend of May.

Councilman Mark Burton said he was looking for a candidate whose selection brought consensus among the council. Danaj rose above everyone else, he said, and possessed all nine characteristics that the city was looking for, including strong leadership, facilitating skills, extensive knowledge of municipal government and policy-making experience.

“I think we hit a home run,” Burton said. “He’s gonna be a breath of fresh air.”

Danaj, who will begin his new post on July 7, could not be reached by press time.

“Having served in a community that’s part of Silicon Valley, he understands the new nature of how people interact with each other,” Howorth said. “We just need someone to keep us moving forward on that path. It’s a challenge and a transitional time in society. My goal was to get someone who wasn’t afraid of changes.”


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