By Janene Scully,

North County Editor

The Solvang City Council decided Monday to offer the top job to the woman who has filled the role for the past five months, forgoing conducting another search for the next city manager.

Council members voted unanimously to negotiate with Xenia Bradford to become the next city manager, the job she has temporarily held since they had asked David Gassaway to resign months after hiring him.

It also means Bradford has gone from consultant to administrative services director to city manager in less than a year.

In casting the vote, the council also decided against conducting another round of recruitment by either its prior firm or a new one.

“I’m as happy as can be that we have Ms. Bradford here working with the council, working with our goals. I think there’s a good relationship here. I think that we work well together,” Councilman Robert Clarke said.

“I want to do things the right way but I sure would like it if we could keep going forward working with Xenia because I’m very, very happy with her,” Clarke said.

Under the contract with Bob Murray & Associates, if the prior candidate left after less than a year, the firm would owe Solvang another recruitment effort. 

The city would still have to pay for expenses, estimated to be $7,500 of the overall $25,000 cost. 

But the council would not be obligated to conduct another recruitment round or use the same firm if a recruitment occurred, City Attorney Chip Wullbrandt said.

“You could simply authorize the mayor to negotiatie, and bring back, probably in closed session, a recommended agreement with Ms. Bradford if that’s what you want to do,” Wullbrandt said. 

Since the one-year time frame’s end is nearing, Wullbrandt urged the council to at least decide Monday night if they wanted to use the same firm. 

“I would like you to tell them no, we don’t want to use them again,” Councilman Chris Djernaes said.

“I would agree with that,” Clarke added. “Because the pool of five was not right.”

“Well, that’s to say the least,” Djernaes said. “The fact that they didn’t do their due diligence on Mr. Gassaway’s resumé, that speaks volumes.”

Mayor Ryan Toussaint and Wullbrandt interrupted Djernaes. 

“Mr. Mayor, I would suggest that you not go into any issues related to anyone who worked for you other than the recruiter,” Wullbrandt said. 

At public meetings and in emails, Djernaes has routinely disparaged prior city employees by names and titles.

Typically, separation agreements include a clause preventing either side from speaking out. At the time of his departure, Gassaway remained mum, referring media to a joint press release to which he and the council had agreed. 

In that statement, the mayor said the separation had “nothing to do with performance” and that the council “has a different direction.”

The city paid Gassaway six months’ salary as part of the deal.

In September, Bradford, hired five months earlier as the administrative services director, was appointed to the interim job after Gassaway’s departure.

“I didn’t see it in the crystal ball when I came back to Solvang ten years later that I would be acting city manager. But it’s been fun to work outside the box and work with the council,” she said. 

Bradford worked as a consultant for Solvang since May 2018 before being named administrative services director in April 2019.

She previously worked for the city of San Luis Obispo where she managed a team of 18 employees as finance director, after being appointed to the job in July 2017 following a year as interim finance director.

Months later, on March 27, 2018, Bradford resigned from the job and her last day was in April 2018.

Previously she had jobs with Santa Barbara County as well as private sector roles. 

She earned two degrees from UCSB, a bachelor’s degree in business economics with an emphasis on accounting and an master’s degree in economics with an emphasis on business.  

Bradford also earned a master’s of public policy with an emphasis in local government and international relations from Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Public Policy. 

She also attended Santa Barbara College of Law and graduated in 2008.  

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at