In 2015, Steve McHarris left his post as Milpitas planning director to escape the alleged abuses by his old boss, City Manager Tom Williams.
That complaint set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to Williams’ downfall and forced departure after being exposed as a bully and a cheat, having tried to get taxpayers to pick up the tab for his personal legal battles.
Now, five years and a few successors later, McHarris is Milpitas’ top bureaucrat, having been promoted to the role last week in a unanimous vote by the City Council.
For McHarris, it’s been quite a journey. For a few years after resigning to dodge Williams’ retaliation for speaking up about ethical lapses, McHarris worked for San Jose’s planning division, where he was reportedly treated with much more respect.
Meanwhile, Milpitas went through a rotating cast of city managers.
Williams was followed by ex-MPD Chief Steve Pangelinan, who led City Hall from May 2017 to the start of the following year. Then, the council hired Dianne Thompson, fresh off her firing from an equivalent job in Arroyo Grande. San Jose’s former Parks ’n’ Rec boss Julie Edmonds-Mares took the helm from February 2018 to May 2019, at which point McHarris—then her second-in-command—stepped up to the plate.
McHarris sheds the “interim” part of his title just as the city faces one of the worst recessions in anyone’s lifetime. But Mayor Rich Tran said the new city manager’s three decades of public service will help Milpitas pull through.
“Prior to the global pandemic, our city was strongly humming, core services were performing like never before and our city revenues broke record after record,” he said. “It was in large part [due] to the city manager’s office,” which is why he called McHarris his “first choice” to “lead us through these challenging times.”