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Chris Zapata Of National City Named New Manager Of San Leandro

Will start Jan. 30 after 7 years as city manager of that southern San Diego County community.

Chris Zapata was appointed city manager of San Leandro after a 6-0 vote by the city council Thursday night.

Zapata will start work on January 30th after running National City in San Diego County for the last seven years.

The newly-appointed manager, a veteran of 25 years of local public service, was not available after Thursday night's vote, which took place in closed session at City Hall.

But in a statement released by Mayor Stephen Cassidy, Zapata said he planned to live in San Leandro.

"It's important to me to not only serve the city for which I work, but to also become a part of that community," Zapata said.

National City is a port town near San Diego with a population of about 60,000 people. Zapata has earned $165,000 a year in that post.

Details of his contract and compensation in San Leandro, which has 85,000 residents, won't be available until the city council meets on January 17th to finalize the hiring process.

A biography released by San Leandro officials charts a career in municipal government that began in Arizona, where Zapata was born and educated, earning his Bachelor's degree from Northern Arizona University.

His most notable position prior to running National City was his service as deputy city manager in Glendale, Arizona.

With Vice Mayor Michael Gregory out-of-town and absent from Thursday's vote, the council was unanimous in its enthusiasm for Zapata.

"He has experience and committment," said City Councilwoman Pauline Cutter, citing one of Zapata's accomplishments as getting National City a larger share of revenues from its involvement in the Port of San Diego.

Cassidy noted that Zapata helped National City expand its business base, cut costs and raise revenues through a temporary sales tax measure.

"We are honored to have a person of his caliber as our new city manager and confident Chris will provide San Leandro outstanding leadership for many years to come," Cassidy said

Councilman Jim Prola said Zapata was his top choice of the seven finalists interviewed after a search firm hired at a cost of roughly $25,000 helped San Leandro cast a wide net for a new leader.

"This is the most important decision we will make as a city council," Prola said.

Zapata had been a candidate for at least two other jobs outside National City this year.

In March he withdrew publicly from consideration to become city manager of Stockton.

In April he was a finalist for city manager in Chandler, Arizona, but was ultimately not selected for that post.

Cutter said the common thread in Zapata's recent job-hunting was his stated desire to be close to family, in the case of Arizona, returning to his roots. She said San Leandro would put him close to his daughter, Dr. Jade Zapata, a psychiatrist in San Francisco, and son, Lee Michael Zapata, a recent Stanford graduate.

San Leandro has been seeking long-term leadership since announced a year ago December that he intended to retire at the end of June 2011.

In its first effort to fill the vacancy, the new city council led by Cassidy . Assistant city manager Lianne Marshall has been serving as the city’s top administrator on an interim basis.

As Zapata settles into his post, San Leandro will have a relatively new crew running key departments.

Only hired Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli as the first woman and the .

The city has also been without a permanent finance director since the last occupant to take a similar position in Hayward. Filling the finance vacancy will be among Zapata's first opportunities to reshape City Hall.

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Fran January 06, 2012 at 05:03 PM
I knew this was coming. So predictable. A cheerleader for redevelopment. One who sees building stadiums for sports teams with public money as a good thing. The worst kind. National City rushed to issue bonds, doubling their debt, for no other reason then because they could, when the writing was on the wall redevelopment agencies would be eliminated. Ugh.
Leah Hall January 06, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Awesome bio. It looks like Chris Zapata has a unique blend of leadership skills and vision. We are very fortunate! Welcome, Chris! PS - No stadiums, please. I'd love to see more facilities and programing in San Leandro with the mission of supporting strong families, strong kids and strong communities. Anything I can do to help, just call me!
Marga Lacabe January 06, 2012 at 06:01 PM
I'm concerned again that the City Council kept the community from helping vet the new City Manager, and that he comes to San Leandro with a record that I think would make many of us uncomfortable. Tom, I wonder if you're planning to write another article discussion those issues, and preferably asking Zapata to explain the actions/positions he took. I'd also be interested to see what the current City Council members think of those actions/positions and whether Zapata is committed to take a different approach in San Leandro. I'm glad we have a Latino city manager, and I do look forward to working with him, but I'm really concerned on what direction he'll try to take this city.
Tom Abate (Editor) January 06, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I look forward to talking to the new manager and if he isn't aware of the Q&A potential of the Patch, and the opportunity it gives for people to ask questions and influence the debate then he will have another thing to learn when he comes to San Leandro. Meanwhile, he has a finance position to fill, the shakeout from the redevelopment ruling and I think some city labor contracts coming up year end.
Marga Lacabe January 06, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Tom, I'll take this as a no them :-(. I guess I'll have to write about this myself.
Tom Abate (Editor) January 06, 2012 at 07:26 PM
That's not a no. I will ask these and other questions when we talk. Meanwhile, please do pose questions on you blog or here. I find it helpful even if/when I don't immediately follow suit.

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