Among the applicants who hoped to succeed retiring Los Altos Hills city manager Carl Cahill was one of his most vocal critics.
Hills resident Robert Sandor applied for the job Aug. 9, according to a letter he sent Gary Phillips of recruiting firm Bob Murray & Associates. The city council met in private last week to discuss job candidates, and an email from Sandor was included as part of the meeting’s supplemental materials.
“Please be advised that I have submitted my resume and cover letter to Mr. Phillips directly and via the town’s Job Openings System (CalOpps) over two weeks ago,” Sandor wrote to council members. “I did receive confirmation that my application had been fully received, but never heard back from Mr. Phillips.”
On Sept. 1, a day after the council’s meeting, Phillips informed Sandor he would not proceed to the final round of interviews.
“I hope that the town council is willing to open their process up and (ensure) that qualified residents are given due consideration,” Sandor wrote in an email to the Town Crier. “I am disappointed that a resident was not treated with a bit more consideration or courtesy. I think we have a wonderful opportunity to change the way the town is managed and (it) would be sad if the primary qualification for LAH CM would be someone from another city who has worn the CM hat.”
Sandor, a semi-retired Silicon Valley tech executive now teaching computer science part time at Foothill College, explained his intended career trajectory during a interview with the Town Crier. He said he became interested in Cahill’s management of the town around June 2019, when the city council approved a 15-year, $60-million contract with GreenWaste Recovery for garbage collection. Like a good number of residents, Sandor felt Cahill, some town staff and some city council members squandered whatever bargaining power they had by waiting too long to negotiate. Cahill and others who worked on the deal countered by noting China’s tightening solid waste import bans as well as the lack of GreenWaste competitors. The resulting contract meant higher rates and/or reduced services.
Sandor’s blunt commentary has since become a frequent feature of public town meetings. In addition to the GreenWaste controversy, he attributes staff turnover and a contested town hall expansion project to Cahill.
The criticism doesn’t stem from dislike, though, Sandor clarified.
“It’s not personal,” he said. “It’s just, I believe, there’s been a lack of proactive leadership.”
Phillips hosted a virtual “listening session” July 26 to hear from residents about the kind of city manager they desired, and it was discussion about selecting from the private sector that convinced Sandor to pursue the post.
“I think if you look toward a resident who already lives here and is invested in the community, at least that person should be on a list to consider,” Sandor said. “And I’ve heard the talk that you need a professional city manager to do this, and I just think that’s wrong because we have so many great professional people in town that we can draw from.”
The Town Crier reached out to Phillips to inquire about Sandor’s application and the pool of candidates in general, but he did not respond.
Interviews for the city manager position are scheduled to commence today with a second round beginning Sept. 20. Cahill intends to depart at the end of October.
For more information on the city manager recruitment process, visit losaltoshills.ca.gov/534/2021-City-Manager-Recruitment.