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Solvang Selects New City Manager

By Mike Chaldu michael@santaynezvalleystar.com

Solvang has hired its new city manager as the contract for Randy Murphy to fill the position was passed by the City Council during its regular meeting on Monday, April 10.

The council voted 5-0 to OK Murphy's contract as city manager. He will begin his duties on Friday, April 28, with the employment agreement lasting for three years, through April 27, 2026, with compensation of $190,000 per year.

Murphy, currently the general manager of the Hidden Valley Lake Association, a homeowners' group in Northern California, has more than 30 years of management experience, more than 20 of them in the public sector.

Murphy was in attendance at the start of the April 10 meeting and introduced himself to the people in attendance.

"I'm very excited to be here, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to serve this community," he said. "As I told the council during the selection process, I have a passion for public service and look forward to sharing that passage."

Murphy went on to joke about being a San Francisco Giants fan moving into a community with a lot of L.A. Dodgers fans, and expressed encouragement about his talks with other area city leaders leading up to the start of his tenure.

"I'm ready to hit the ground running on April 28," he said.

Murphy received a welcome from speakers during public comment, but a couple of them raised concerns about his work experience.

On Zoom, Sheila Benedict complimented Murphy on his "excellent credentials," but was concerned that in looking at his resume he "averaged about 11 months on the job."

"I hope he's planning to stay more than 11 months in our beautiful little community," she said.

Also on Zoom, Vashti Wilson, who until recently was a member of Solvang Tourism Advisory Board, elaborated on his work history even further.

"In viewing his resume, I'm seeing him in jobs for five months, three months, seven months, 11 months," Wilson said. "He has been with the homeowner’s association for three years, but before that, on his one city administrator job, he was fired from after a performance review, having that for a year and a half.

"At this amount of money, for this position, to have someone who's held a job more than three years once in 22 years, I caution the city in doing that."

Councilmember Claudia Orona defended the council's selection of Murphy and the process of the selection.

"This was a long, painstaking process," she said. "Of all the candidates we had, some were interested but not qualified, and others were making salary demands that were questionable. We weighed the pros and cons, and determined that Randy is the best person for this job.

"It's no easy task, but I hope people realize we’re on the same team, and we should support Randy through this transition."

The city manager position had been open since the resignation of Xenia Bradford in September 2022. Brad Vidro, a former Solvang City Manager himself, has been serving as interim city manager since October 2022.

Murphy has been the GM of the Hidden Valley Lake Association since June 2019. Hidden Valley Lake is a gated subdivision in Lake County, located 97 miles north of San Francisco, and 114 miles west of Sacramento.

Before starting with the HVLA, Murphy held administrative positions with several cities in California, including Benicia, Oroville, and Tulare.