Tucson City Manager Miranda to retire after nearly 40-year career

2014-05-24T00:00:00Z 2014-05-24T11:23:42Z Tucson City Manager Miranda to retire after nearly 40-year careerBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Richard Miranda, who rose from a beat cop in the Tucson Police Department to become the city’s top administrator, will retire at the end of July.

Miranda quietly made the announcement Friday morning, telling the Tucson City Council and upper city management in a two-paragraph memo that he was ending nearly four decades of public service to his hometown.

“My reason for making this decision is that after nearly 40 years of service with the city of Tucson, I feel that it is time to make this move for my family and me,” Miranda said in the note.

City leaders credit Miranda for leaving on a high note, managing a difficult budget process with millions of dollars in cuts and shepherding the modern streetcar project, set to start running in about two months.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said in a statement Friday morning that he was glad to have had Miranda as a city manager for three years.

“I count myself fortunate to have had Mr. Miranda serving as city manager these past three years. He has been a steady, stabilizing presence, well-respected by city staff and the community, whose integrity and devotion to Tucson are both exceptional,” Rothschild said.

The city is likely to begin the process for a national search for a new city manager after Memorial Day weekend, Rothschild said.

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich wasn’t surprised by the announcement, saying she knew on Thursday that Miranda planned on stepping down.

She agrees with Roths-child that a nationwide search is an important first step, but sees several top administrators here who would make excellent candidates to replace Miranda.

The council will be asked to appoint an interim manager to run the day-to-day operations after Miranda steps down on July 31.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor has worked with Miranda for decades, even going so far as to help him deliver a baby in the middle of the street.

He said Miranda has never shied away from dealing with complex problems.

While some might question decisions he has made as city manager or even as police chief, Villaseñor said each of those decisions came from his heart, as Miranda has tried to do what was best for the city in which he was raised.

Councilman Steve Kozachik said he has had respect for Miranda during his tenure but believes any replacement will be weakened by a policy allowing a simple majority of the council to hire — and more importantly fire — the city manager.

Kozachik points to the recent budget battle as an example, arguing that the city manager did an about-face after the council panned Miranda’s initial budget proposal, which included deep cuts to social service agencies, layoffs and increases in bus fares.

But Kozachik concedes it would be difficult for the city to change its charter to give a manager greater protection from termination.

Councilman Richard Fimbres said Miranda will be remembered for moving the city in a positive direction, first as police chief and then again as city manager.

Fimbres said his legacy will be the modern streetcar, helping to make the electric cars a reality in Tucson.

A 2012 employment contract with the city of Tucson does not list any payouts for Miranda after he retires. He has a $202,000 annual salary, according to city records.

Miranda was hired as city manager about three years ago after previously serving as an assistant city manager and before that, police chief.

Before Miranda’s tenure as city manager, there had been a lot of turnover in the position in the last decade.

The council fired City Manager Mike Letcher in 2011 and two years before that fired then-City Manager Mike Hein.

Hein was on the job for several years after taking over for James Keene, who stepped down in 2005.

Miranda, who grew up on Tucson’s south side and attended Sunnyside schools, joined the Tucson Police Department in 1975.

He was named police chief in 1998. He retired from that position and was appointed as an assistant city manager in 2008.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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