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Cambridge City Manager Rossi Announces Retirement

By Joshua J. Florence, Crimson Staff Writer

After 45 years of working in the Cambridge City government, City Manager Richard C. Rossi announced his intent to retire in June. The seasoned Cambridge veteran served three years in the position.

According to Rossi, he and the Cambridge City Council met earlier this March to discuss the extension of his three-year contract. At the meeting, Rossi informed the council of his desire to retire “after a long period of thought and discussion.” He announced his retirement officially in a statement addressed to the City Council’s Government Operations, Rules, and Claims Committee on March 11.

“For me it’s a career decision, which was quite difficult and painful for me to make, but finally I did make it,” Rossi said in an interview.

The city manager position, arguably the most powerful in the city, carries great influence in Cambridge. As the chief executive of the city government, the city manager is responsible for enforcing laws and ordinances, advising the City Council and implementing their decisions, appointing city officials, and crafting the city budget.

The decision to retire was difficult, Rossi said, in part because he has worked for Cambridge for more than four decades.

“I have worked for the city for 45 years. I’ve been city manager for the past three, and I’ve been deputy city manager for 32 years prior to that,” Rossi said. He also served as acting director of the Water Department and acting commissioner of public works during his tenure with the city government.

Rossi said he believes his ability to work with his office to serve the residents of Cambridge as best he can has made his time as city manager effective.

“We have an incredibly talented and competent team of public officials,” Rossi said. “This is an outstanding city that is far and ahead the best in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

City officials praised Rossi for his work bringing organized lobbyists and community members together during his term as city manager.

“I think there were a lot of things that I think people were really dissatisfied with when he came in,” Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen said. “I think the city manager did a good job in slowly moving to the point where both groups can get what they want.”

In his final few months, Rossi said he will propose the budget for the 2017 fiscal year to the City Council and continue work on initiatives in STEAM programming and early-childhood education.

“I’m working closely with my staff to make sure they are on top of all of the goals we have set out to have accomplished,” Rossi said.

The task of appointing of a new city manager rests solely with the Cambridge City Council, as outlined in the Council’s rules. However, choosing a new City Manager has, until recently, been a rare job for the City Council. Prior to Rossi’s appointment in late 2012, Robert W. Healy, served as city manager for a historic 31 years. A City Council committee will meet on March 23 to create an outline for the new search process, according to Rossi.

“The city manager is the singular most important role,” said Mazen. “It is the decision that defines a city councillors’ role.”

While no plans for selecting a successor have been finalized, Councillor Craig A. Kelley said that the process will be a national search, and may include a private consulting firm to aid the Council as was the case in 2012.

“I would suspect that we would look toward the employees to find out what they would be looking for in a potential boss,” said Kelley. “My belief is that what we’ll do is that we’ll hire a consulting company of some sort to help set up an advertisement.”

Kelley cast the one dissenting vote against the appointment of Rossi in 2012, objecting to the process by which the decision was made. This year, this selection will be “longer and be more extensive” than the 2012 undertaking, Kelley said.

While Rossi’s contract ends in June, the City Council requested that he remain involved in the government should a successor not be found before the contract deadline. Rossi said he intends to stay on as long as needed to facilitate an “orderly transition.”

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