The City Council voted 6-0 to confirm Mayor Pat Morris' selection of Allen J. Parker, who most recently ran a consulting company and was chief administrative officer for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians from 2001 to 2006.
Councilman John Valdivia missed the closed-door interviews and vote because he was at a council training session, but he said Parker seemed to be the perfect hire.
Parker's contract will be negotiated over the weekend, with the council voting again on Tuesday on whether to accept those terms.
If approved, Parker will start just after the departure of Acting City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller, who is leaving Monday to become executive director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments.
The quick transition would mean a minimal learning curve for Parker, who already is at work on finding a new finance director, Morris said.
Morris said Parker would continue a course correction started by Travis-Miller and Finance Director Jason Simpson, both of whom recently announced they were leaving the city after being credited with finding many of the problems that led the city to file for bankruptcy.
"He brings with him a lifetime of professional experience in public management in a variety of settings, and most of those settings have similar demographics to our city, similar economics," Morris said. "In many ways, he was brought into those cities to solve their fiscal challenges. I have confidence he can do that here."
Parker, 72, began his public service career as an administrative assistant in 1965 in Kansas City, Mo., and has 24 years' experience as a city manager.
He predicted his leadership of San Bernardino would likely be particularly helped by his time as city manager of Compton, a city he said had a "100,000 population, including 20,000 undocumented aliens," and was on the brink of bankruptcy when he took over in 1976.
He eliminated 200 of 1,000 positions, "replaced seven top management with competent individuals" and helped refurbish a rapidly deteriorating housing stock on the way to balancing a budget that had faced a $4.5 million deficit - $18 million in 2012 dollars - according to his resume.
"The way you do it, primarily, is you reduce expenses and reduce the number of positions," Parker said, pointing to examples of outsourcing and cuts he'd made in other cities. "(Outsourcing) is not necessarily what I'd do in this city. I need to sit down with the remaining finance people, take a look at the bankruptcy filings and such."
Parker said has also been city manager of more upscale cities.
Councilman Chas Kelley said Parker's experiences were impressive, but he was most interested in his apparent support for an approach Kelley has been advocating.
"I'm confident that this selection as our new city manager, he will work with this council to prepare an economic strategic plan and set forth goals and objectives for the council and city to achieve through a work program very similar to the city of Highland or as a general goal-setting session that all municipalities must have in order to move forward," Kelley said.
Councilwoman Virginia Marquez, noting that Parker would be the third city manager since she was first elected in 2009, said she hoped Parker would help bring stability.
"He comes to us very well prepared for the most challenging role in his life, and that's the city of San Bernardino, but I am confident that he will do well," Marquez said.
Parker, a Beaumont resident, said he was looking forward to the chance to turn around one more city.
He also pledged to be accessible while leading the city through its troubled fiscal waters.
"I hope to stay here long enough to help remedy the situation," he said, "and then that's probably the end of my public career."
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