CONCORD -- A new era at City Hall was cemented Tuesday with the official hiring of a permanent city manager.
After a national search for a new leader, the City Council voted 5-0 to name Valerie Barone as the city's next top administrator by approving a contract in which Barone will earn a base salary of $226,344 a year.
Council members Tuesday praised Barone for steering the city through a year of state cutbacks affecting the city's budget, tumultuous contract negotiations with its largest union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 856, and a wave of retirements in key positions, such as public works director.
The city manager and city attorney positions are hired by the City Council -- the city manager is tasked with hiring department heads.
Barone, who has served as interim city manager since February 2012, will continue to oversee the county's largest city and an annual general fund budget of roughly $71 million.
"This is no light task," said Vice Mayor Tim Grayson. "Your main concern is not trying to just color inside the lines, you really are working and I trust that your work ethic and the character ... which you have displayed while being interim city manager will prove itself even more so as you take on the full thrust and responsibility of this job."
Mayor Dan Helix said Barone reminded him of Farrel A. "Bud" Stewart, Concord's city manager from 1960-1986 and 1992-1994, who oversaw rapid growth in Concord.
Helix, who served on council in the late 1960s and early 1970s, worked alongside Stewart, and said Barone has "qualities that were shown by Stewart." The Civic Center complex now bears the former city manager's name.
The council first announced its decision to hire Barone at a meeting last month. Barone served as the assistant city manager to Dan Keen until he left in February 2012. Before that, Barone worked as the community development director in Walnut Creek and had previously held the same job in Milpitas.
After City Clerk Mary Rae Lehman changed Barone's nameplate from "interim city manager" to "city manager," Barone said she was excited "to keep delivering responsive and effective services to our community."
As part of her contract, Barone will receive $15,000 a year in deferred compensation, 80 hours of annual administrative pay and nine months of severance pay should she ever be terminated from the position. Officials said the annual pay is equal to the amount Barone has earned as interim city manager, and they noted that the salary is less than other city managers.
For example, former Concord City Manager Keen now earns $270,000 as the head of the city government in Vallejo.
"She's a bargain," Helix said.
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.