Ready to ‘roll up my sleeves’: Matt Huffaker officially takes reins as Santa Cruz’s city manager

Santa Cruz city councilmembers unanimously voted Tuesday to appoint Matt Huffaker to serve as the next city manager. Huffaker, who is currently serving as Watsonville’s city manager, will start the Santa Cruz role Jan. 3.

Matt Huffaker, the current Watsonville city manager, will become the next Santa Cruz city manager after the city council voted unanimously to appoint him during its Tuesday meeting.

“I’m very much looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with each of you, working with our incredible city team, and our community members to help emerge from this pandemic stronger, and to continue advancing the many important and exciting initiatives that are underway,” he said during the meeting.

While the city council is responsible for approving policies, the city manager acts as the city chief executive and manages its departments including finance and public safety.

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“We’re thrilled that Matt has decided to come here and work in the city of Santa Cruz,” said Mayor Donna Meyers. She emphasized Huffaker’s experience working in Watsonville, first as assistant city manager in 2016 and later as city manager there since 2018. He has a total of 15 years working in local government leadership positions.

Former City Manager Martín Bernal announced his retirement from the position in February and had his last day in August, when Rosemary Menard started working as interim city manager.

She “dove in headfirst” to tackle complicated issues while simultaneously continuing her work as the city’s water director, according to Meyers. Councilmembers thanked Menard for her work over the past several months as they interviewed candidates for the position.

“It has not been an easy process to land on who our new city manager was going to be,” Councilmember Justin Cummings said. “It’s probably one of the most important jobs in this community.”

Several city councilmembers said they look forward to working with Huffaker after interacting with him over the past two years as local officials worked together in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Huffaker will earn a monthly base salary of $22,199, which comes to an annual salary of $266,388, according to his employment agreement with the City of Santa Cruz.