South Pasadena New City Manager Search | Prospective Candidate Has Experience, Baggage

Christopher A. Jordan has had over a decade's worth of experience in the position for two similarly sized cities but also has a notable reputation, with some noting his 'aggressive management style'

PHOTO: Esteban Lopez | News | South Pasadena City Hall

The South Pasadena City Council on Wednesday is set to vote on the appointment of Christopher A. Jordan as the new City Manager.

Jordan, who served a total of 15 years as city manager in two West Coast cities with populations similar to South Pasadena, will report to work May 10. The Council is set to approve a 4-year contract under which Jordan will get an annual “base salary” of $225,000 plus a $500 per month car allowance and an executive management-level health plan. He’ll be eligible for up to $20,000 in reimbursements for relocation and temporary housing costs.

Jordan was City Manager of the Silicon Valley city of Los Altos, CA for just under five years until resigning last November. Prior to that, he served 10 years as City Manager in West Linn, OR, 10 miles south of Portland.

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He has held assistant or interim city manager positions in Oregon City, OR, Lake Oswego, OR and in the San Francisco Bay area. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, he served in Washington DC as a budget examiner and policy analyst at the Office of Management & Budget.

He holds 1985 BA in government and history from Cornell University.

In a staff report, the city said its recruiter, Gary Phillips of Bob Murray & Associates, received over 50 applications for the position and that the Council interviewed the five it deemed best qualified. Two of these were then interviewed again. “A thorough background check was performed, and it was unanimously determined by the City Council that Chris Jordan is the most qualified among the candidates.”

The search began last September after the Council ousted of former City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe. Interim City Manager Sean Joyce, a previous South Pasadena city manager, has served under a contract with a term that was set to end “no later than March 31, 2021.”

The staff report said Jordan’s $225,000 salary is based on his 25 years of local municipal government experience and “reflects a 12.5 percent increase over the base salary paid to Ms. DeWolfe in 2020.” Transparent California, which gets its data from the city, reported that DeWolfe’s 2019 “regular pay” was $205,231, which plus 12.5 percent would come to $230,885.

Regardless, Jordan’s salary will be less than the $245,095 he was getting in Los Altos, which has a budget roughly 25 percent larger than South Pasadena and a population of about 30,500 compared to South Pasadena’s 25,600.

Last November, Jordan told the Los Altos Town Crier he resigned “after a months-long conversation with the council and that it was ‘not necessarily’ his decision.”

According to the 8-page separation agreement, Jordan received a $183,821 severance payment and was given a year to pay back a loan he got from the city to purchase a house in Los Altos. A separate report put the amount of the loan at $2 million.

Under the settlement, Jordan released the city from any complaints or claims except those arising from a pair of federal civil rights lawsuits filed by Los Altos resident Satish Ramachandran, in which Jordan is a defendant. In one of those cases, a judge on Feb. 8 2021 dismissed all but a single malicious persecution claim against the defendants, writing that “this is a neighbor dispute gone horribly wrong that has now spawned three lawsuits, two in federal court and one in state court.” The other case, in which Ramaschandran claimed the city denied home improvement permits to over a dozen Asian and Indian homeowners, is set for settlement conference on July 27.

The agreement was “to settle and compromise any and all possible present and future disputes and controversies existing or which in the future may exist” between the city and Jordan.

In August of 2015, Jordan also resigned from West Lynn under terms of a separation agreement that included a $112,918 severance payment plus another $28,734 in accrued vacation.

Los Altos Mayor Jan Pepper, who was on the city panel that hired Jordan, told the Daily Post he’d been straight with them about his separation from West Linn. “He had told us there had been a change in council members. That’s always a challenge for all city managers. I think it is pretty common that some council members will like a city manager and some will not like a city manager.”

In West Linn, Jordan took heat for an “aggressive management style” that included replacing department heads and persuading the council to hire an attorney who reported directly to him, the Post reported.



Ben Tansey
Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.