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Ron Kaye: The Starbird philosophy

July 15, 2011|By Ron Kaye

Don’t bother saying thanks to Jim Starbird — he’s been living a dream for the past 14 years as Glendale city manager.

A day after disclosing plans to retire at the end of the year, Starbird talked about his love affair with the city and how he set his eye on becoming its city manager more than three decades ago as his career as a public servant advanced from Duarte, to Monrovia, to West Covina.

“I never had a plan past Glendale, never visualized anything else,” Starbird said. “We’ll see if there’s life after Glendale.”

At 62, in good health, happily married with his first two grandchildren just a few months old, Starbird has the rest of his life to look forward to with the security of a substantial public employee pension and a reputation as one of the most effective public administrators in Southern California.

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Personal reasons played a role in his decision, but the more important factors were a sense that the City Hall organization was strong, with capable younger people ready to step up, and that the city was through the worst of the financial problems posed by the bursting of the housing bubble and the economic meltdown.

“I wanted to get through this budget cycle. This has been tough, the toughest year,” he said. “There are still big challenges and rising pension costs, but I think every year after this is going to be better, because we’ve made a number of structural changes this year that will put us in a position to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“We’re beginning to see a turnaround. We’re seeing it in our development community. We’re seeing it in our revenue numbers. Each year is going to get better, thanks to the considerable sacrifices made by our police, our managers, our non-safety workers. They’ve given up pay and benefits and put new retirement programs in place. This is a turnaround year.”

There are a lot of achievements Starbird can point to — the Americana at Brand, Hollywood entertainment companies locating in the city, a first-rate infrastructure. He is optimistic that there is more to come, especially in the downtown area, with renovation of the Galleria being planned, Nordstrom moving to the Americana, the Broadway Lofts and Laemmle projects.

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