The following is an open letter to Mayor Kavita Tankha and members of the Los Altos Hills City Council. We, as previous mayors and council members, want to weigh in on City Manager Carl Cahill’s outstanding record of service to the town and emphasize the importance of his institutional memory in maintaining the unique character of Los Altos Hills.
For over 22 years, he has served our town well and kept Los Altos Hills in sound financial shape. During that time, the town has inevitably evolved and changed but remains a very special place in no small part due to his successful efforts, working with a number of different town councils. We are the envy of many cities around us, with a strong balance sheet – punctuated by abundant financial reserves and low liabilities.
Over the past decade, Carl has specifically helped our town:
• Receive the “Safest City” designation in California.
• Earn a Certificate of Excellence for Financial Reporting for the past six years consecutively – in fact, Los Altos Hills currently ranks No. 10 out of 453 municipalities in California for our fiscal health.
• Secure millions of dollars in grant money to seismically upgrade most of our town’s buildings.
• Negotiate and manage a highly successful private/public partnership that mitigated the management headaches and financial drain out of our town’s beloved Westwind Community Barn.
• Raise the town’s Pavement Condition Index (PCI) from a 77 to over 80-plus using our annual budget allocations to strategically attack our street and road conditions – this may sound modest, but our PCI far exceeds that of our surrounding neighbors in the region and places us in the top 10% for communities our size and No. 3 within Santa Clara County.
• Secure grants for restoration of Byrne Preserve and O’Keefe Open Space Preserve.
• Collaborate with the Valley Transportation Authority to restore the bridge and bank at Page Mill Road.
• Connect southern Los Altos Hills to Foothill College and El Monte Road with the completion of the Bob Stutz Path, securing access through agency partners.
• Secure and allocate more than $1.5 million to the restoration of the Fremont Road Path through Safe Routes to School funds.
Most recently, Carl has:
• Spearheaded and coordinated the successful campaign to maintain local control of our Los Altos Hills County Fire District.
• Worked with a resident to clean up a messy situation they had both inherited along Barron Creek.
• Negotiated, albeit painful for many reasons, a 15-year garbage contract that has been thoroughly scrutinized by previous councils, consultants and ad hoc committee members who are residents.
• Ensured a smooth transition of annexed neighborhoods into town, in accordance with Local Agency Formation Commission requirements.
• Overseen the doubling of our Parks and Recreation programs to meet citizens’ demand.
• Devised a matching fund to support neighbors’ efforts to secure high-speed internet, and helped more than 90 homes take advantage of the program.
• And, with Carl’s support, we prevailed and rightfully overturned a multi-decade, tax withholding by the state. These Transportation Equity Act funds now add more than $423,000 to the town’s bottom line annually.
He has saved the town untold millions with successful negotiations and collaboration. Through these efforts, successful projects happen that can be attributed to the town’s, and specifically Carl’s, good working relationship with the county, Los Altos, Palo Alto, the Los Altos School District, the Palo Alto Unified School District, Foothill College, the Los Altos Hills County Fire District, the Purissima Hills Water District, the Valley Transportation Authority and, of course, the many town councils he has served under.
Several years ago, John Radford and Courtenay C. Corrigan executed a thorough performance review using their collective and extensive employee relations and staffing backgrounds. It is right that Carl’s performance should be scrutinized, but he deserves both the opportunity to address any perceived shortcomings and be thanked, acknowledged and rewarded for his successes. Furthermore, as part of this council’s discussion, it will be important to develop a succession plan that fosters a strong staff support team to address Carl’s eventual retirement.
As this year’s council sits down to review his performance, let us remind you of the long history of exceptional work that can be attributed to Carl. We also hope you will acknowledge, in this last year, facing a global pandemic, that Carl has kept the town of Los Altos Hills fully operational and open. He and his staff have continuously provided services to our town residents including permits, inspections, planning support and communications, and hosted COVID testing, while neighboring cities remained shuttered.
We are signing this letter in acknowledgment of our individual and collective appreciation for Carl’s leadership and work.
The authors are former Los Altos Hills mayors and council members: Courtenay C. Corrigan, Bob Fenwick, John Harpootlian, Breene Kerr, Rich Larson, Jean Mordo, Mike O’Malley, John Radford and Roger Spreen.