Louis A. DePasquale is Cambridge’s new “most powerful man”—the city manager— after a unanimous vote by the Cambridge City Council Thursday night.
The role is a promotion from his current position as assistant city manager for fiscal affairs, a post in which he has helped formulate Cambridge’s budget. Nine councillors at a special City Council meeting selected him.
“I think he gets finances in a way that no one else does,” Councillor Craig A. Kelley said. “I was super impressed at the way he has a vision for approaching our university and business partners, and how we can work with them to help our schools, help our non-profits, and help our communities.”
The city manager position is arguably the most powerful in the city. The city manager is is responsible for enforcing laws and ordinances, advising the City Council and implementing their decisions, appointing city officials, and creating the budget.
While the vote was unanimous, the meeting was not without controversy. Some councillors, including Jan Devereux and Nadeem A. Mazen expressed concern with the selection process and the lack of diversity of the three finalists.
“When I was running for office I said I hoped we would take seriously the chance to bring in a fresh perspective when we chose our next city manager,” Devereux said at the meeting. “The process that we’ve put in place has failed essentially to yield us a candidate from the outside that I think we can trust with these big opportunities.”
Mazen said the Council should have appropriated more funds to attract candidates from outside Massachusetts and New England.
“We could have really gotten excited candidates from across this country if we took the time to reach out,” Mazen said. “We did not, as a Council, negotiate from a position of strength.”
Councillors Leland Cheung and David P. Maher, members of the selection committee, defended the selection process and addressed critics from city residents who said there weren’t enough opportunities to meet with the candidates.
“We received many emails and letters and there was no shortage of opinion from folks who had seen the interviews.” Maher said. “In addition, we invited at every juncture the public to offer written comments and to turn that in.”
Addressing questions of diversity in the candidate pool, Cheung said that most city managers across the country are white males.
“This expectation that Cambridge should have just a more diverse candidate pool… That’s just not realistic,” Cheung said. “Cambridge is going to have to be a net exporter of diversity. We have a clear value of diversity in this city.”
Earlier this week, one of the finalists, Robert “Jay” Ash Jr., the secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, removed his name from consideration. In a statement, he expressed thanks for the opportunity, but opted to stay with the Massachusetts Governor Charlie A. Baker ’79 administration.
“In my heart, I believe that being part of the Baker Administration is more important to me than being part of any other administration,” Ash wrote.
Outgoing City Manager Richard C. Rossi is expected to retire on Friday, Sept. 30. After Thursday evening, the City Council will take a two-week hiatus and return to its weekly Monday night meetings on Oct. 17.
—Staff writer Joshua Florence can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.
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