Since the pandemic began, four valley city managers have announced retirement. The longest-serving is Palm Springs' David Ready, who after two decades of service will be leaving his position at the end of the month.
Ready considers the revitalization of downtown Palm Springs to be one of his greatest accomplishments in his two decades as city manager. He says the new hotels and businesses along with the expanded convention center have transformed downtown into a tourism hub that will be an economic driver for years to come.
"This sort of signifies the re-birth of Palm Springs as the destination that it always should be and could be and will be," Ready said.
Ready also played a crucial role in developing air service at the city-owned Palm Springs International Airport. He says when he began as city manager, the airport desperately needed more flights to compete in the tourism economy.
"So you had this great beautiful airport, but very little air service. You may not remember, but we used to have to pay American Airlines $200,000 to have one flight to Dallas in the summertime. Now that's completely changed," Ready said.
Ready said the economic growth has allowed Palm Springs to provide higher-quality services, including its own police department and no-kill animal shelter.
During his 20 years as city manager, sales tax revenues have increased five times, transient occupancy taxes have tripled and property taxes have doubled.
In addition to the way Palm springs has grown, Ready says he's proud the city has developed 50 neighborhood organizations since there were only a few when he arrived.
"The success comes with bringing together and aligning the different stakeholders and interests, and then figuring out how to create public value that make quality of life better," Ready said.
Ready took the job in 2000, after working in municipal government in Flint, Michigan and his hometown of Canton, Ohio. He's served under five mayoral administrations with hundreds of staff members while overseeing a nearly $300 million budget.
But he also witnessed some of the city's toughest times, including when then-mayor Steve Pougnet and developers were indicted in a pay-to-play scandal.
"The last thing any city manager ever wants is when you have the FBI coming into city hall. So obviously that was a very unfortunate thing to occur and was hugely important," Ready said.
Ready says nothing could have prepared him for the challenge of the coronavirus and the city's projected shortfall of $76 million.
To address the budget gap, the council used millions in reserves and laid off more than two dozen staff. Ready said higher-than-expected revenues have recently helped the city to bring down the deficit and re-hire more than a dozen positions that had been eliminated.
"So, I think now we've got our arms around how to deal with this, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, I'd like to think during the worst parts of COVID, I was able to help and assist out," Ready said.
The 60-year-old says the decision to retire was not easy, especially during the pandemic, but now he's ready for a new chapter.
"What's next for you, are you going to stay in Palm Springs?," Peter asked.
"It's hard to ever leave Palm Springs. And so I certainly plan to be here, but again it's what's the next phase. I'm very interested in the academic part of public administration, and government's always been close to my heart so in some form or fashion I will always be involved," Ready responded.
According to Palm Springs, Ready is the only city manager in the nation with a law degree and a doctorate degree.
He says he plans to continue to lead the city and help with the transition until the end of the month. Meanwhile, the search continues for his replacement.