VISTA — A longtime leader in the city’s planning department has been selected to serve in the city’s top job.
John Conley was selected as an internal hire for Vista’s city manager position and unanimously approved by the Vista City Council as the city’s chosen applicant on March 7.
Conley has served in the city’s planning department for the past 25 years, holding roles as a city planner, principal environmental planner, principal planner, and environmental planner before becoming Community Development Director in 2007.
He has been a familiar face at Planning Commission and City Council meetings for several years, overseeing projects including the development of the Paseo Santa Fe corridor, redevelopment of Vista Village, construction of two skateparks, and all Proposition L projects, including the Civic Center, the Moonlight Amphitheatre and new fire stations, according to the city.
“I want to express my sincere appreciation to the staff, the City Council, and the community for the support I’ve received throughout this process,” Conley said. “I am looking forward to this incredible opportunity of serving Vista as City Manager and embracing the challenges that lie ahead.”
City officials said they conducted an extensive search and determined that Conley was the best candidate out of multiple applicants.
“We’re very excited to be welcoming John Conley as our new city manager today. All of you, of course, know him well, and many, many, many members of our community know him very well. He enjoys a great reputation, and so we’re very proud that he’s going to be our new chief executive officer,” said Mayor John Franklin.
However, some council members shared grievances about how the search process was handled. Councilmember Corinna Contreras said she wished the city had invested more funds to hire an actual recruitment firm. In addition, she claimed the council only had an hour and 20 minutes to interview candidates.
“I think it could have been a much more professional level than it was,” Contreras said. “Moving forward, I look forward to creating a much more transparent and better process in the case that we need to review the position for city manager, whatever council that will be.”
Melendez echoed these sentiments, stating that while she has confidence in Conley, she would have liked to see the process be handled differently.
Conley’s selection marks the most recent change in leadership in Vista in recent months after the October resignation of Patrick Johnson, Vista’s former city manager of 11 years. Shortly after, the city also saw the retirement of former Vista Fire Chief Ned Vander Pol.
Amanda Lee, who has served as acting city manager since Johnson’s departure, will now return to her role of assistant city manager. Council members thanked her for her tireless work during the city’s leadership transition.
“You have been amazing during this interim period. I think you really took on this role and took care of our city staff in an incredible way,” Melendez said.