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Budget Manager’s Departure Stuns Berkeley City Officials

Friday January 09, 2004

Berkeley—which really did not need any more bad news on the budget front this fiscal year—got it anyway with the surprise, sudden, and stunning announcement this week that the almost universally respected Paul Navazio was resigning as Budget Manager at the end of January to become the Finance Director for the city of Davis. 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz said Tracy Vesley, a Senior Management Analyst for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront, will serve as interim manager until a replacement is picked. 

Navazio said his decision to leave Berkeley city government after six years had nothing to do with dissatisfaction with the job. “If it wasn’t for a family decision to move to Davis, I wouldn’t necessarily be jumping at [the Davis] position,” he said. 

“It just so happened that this job became available at the same time my wife and I were looking at possibly moving to Davis perhaps in two or three years or so. The Davis job just looked like it’s a good fit, at a good time. At least, a good time for me and my family.” 

Navazio’s departure comes at a particularly precarious time in the fiscal life of Berkeley, which is caught in an escalating budget crisis as it faces a projected $8 million to $10 million shortfall for the next fiscal year. 

On Jan. 27, Navazio’s next-to-the-last day on his Berkeley job, he and Kamlarz are scheduled to present City Council with detailed proposals for budget cuts and fiscal recovery.  

Navazio typically has done both the complicated budget predictions and number-crunching as well as explained the numbers to Councilmembers, city employees, labor representatives, and the public. 

“Paul has a tremendous amount of credibility within the organization, and within the community as well,” said Kamlarz, who recruited Navazio to Berkeley in 1998 from Navazio’s position as Oakland Budget Director. “He’s both a straight shooter, and very patient with people.” 

Asked his first reaction to Navazio’s announcement, Kamlarz said something which he then admitted was “probably unprintable,” then added that he wished he hadn’t come in to the office to catch up on some e-mails and paperwork during the holiday break. 

“I asked Paul what was going on and he gave me a report, and then he added, ‘Oh, by the way...’ It’s not something I wanted to hear. This is a big personal loss to me, not just professionally or just within the organization. I’ve grown to respect his work and [appreciate] my real close relationship with him.” 

Navazio’s move will mean a slight bump in salary for him, up to almost $111,000 a year from his present $108,000, and will put him in a higher tier of city positions. More important, he says, is that it will allow his family to move into a one-story, multi-bedroom home for the benefit of his disabled, six-year-old daughter, one of a set of triplets (the Navazio’s also have a 10-year-old son). “My daughter’s in a wheelchair,” Navazio explained. 

“We have a beautiful house in the hills in Kensington, but it’s two stories, and where do we get a four or five bedroom house on one story where folks could ride bikes or power wheelchairs around town and schools? But the real key is that Davis has a full-inclusion special ed program, so that my daughter, who requires special ed, will be able to be in the same classroom as her sisters. In West Contra Costa School District, where they attend now, she has to be in different schools than her sisters.” 

Another factor in favor of the Davis move was that his wife, an employment law attorney, will be able to rejoin her old law firm, which relocated there. 

“It was all pretty coincidental,” Navazio said. “I was contacted by city officials in Davis, who told me that their Finance Director would be coming vacant (Nov. 14), and asked me if I knew the names of any persons I might forward to them so that they could have a good crop of applicants. And I said, ‘Hey, it just so happens that I’ve been talking about Davis.’ So I spoke with them, and things happened real quickly, quicker than I bargained for.” 

Melissa Chaney, Davis Human Resources Director, was clearly ecstatic for what seemed to be a steal for a city with one-third the budget of Berkeley. “We’re very excited to get him,” Chaney said. “We spent quite a while talking to him during the interview process, and we just knew that he’d be a perfect fit here.” 

Asked what won the job for Navazio over 14 other applicants, Chaney said it was “many things, but two in particular. We wanted somebody could come in and lead the department that had an understanding of what the real function of a finance department was and could offer some in depth budget and financial planning forecasting. [Paul] had those two main qualities.” 

Other city officials reacted to the announcement with a mixture of good wishes for Navazio and expressions of sadness for Berkeley’s loss. 

“It’s going to be a big hole to fill,” said Mayor Tom Bates. “He’s really an outstanding finance director. I guess we all should have been nervous, I suppose, having somebody who loves the Grateful Dead handling all of our money. But as everybody knows, Paul was excellent at his job. He’s definitely going to be missed. But Paul’s a nice guy, and he deserves this break. I wish him the best. ” 

That sentiment was echoed by Bates’ aide, Cisco De Vries. “I don’t think there’s any question that it’s a substantial loss from the budget team,” De Vries said. “Luckily we’ve got a lot of talented people over there [in the city finance department], but Paul was a go-to guy. We’ll figure it out, but it’s certainly bad news. It’s a bummer.” 

City Councilmembers agreed. “There’s a lot of city employees we could function without, but [Navazio’s] not one of them,” Councilmember Betty Olds said. “He’s been an outstanding person. I just really feel bad about it, but it’s from a selfish standpoint. It’s a step up for him.” 

And from Councilmember Linda Maio: “The thing about Paul is his demeanor. He is Mr. Patient. Mr. Good Humor. Mr. Stay Til It Gets Done No Matter How Long. He’s a low-key guy, so you don’t get any rah-rah stuff. But you just feel good about working with somebody like that. I’m sorry that he’s going, and I hope he comes back someday. I really saw him on the ladder for executive level position with the city, someone who would fill [Acting City Manager Phil Kamlarz’] shoes whenever Phil left. I thought it was a wise choice Phil made to hire Paul, and to give him so much responsibility. We’re losing a very talented guy.” 

Navazio’s interim replacement, Tracy Vesley, is scheduled to transfer to the city manager’s office from Parks, Recreation and Waterfront on Jan. 12 to train under Navazio for the last two weeks of his tenure. Vesley has worked for five years in her Senior Management Analyst position. She previously worked as a program manager for the State Judiciary, and as senior budget analyst in the Kern County Administrative office.