SLO Council selects Derek Johnson as next city manager

September 7, 2017

As requested by outgoing City Manager Katie Lichtig, the San Luis Obispo City Council has selected Lichtig’s second-in-command to be the city’s next top executive.

On Wednesday, the council unanimously directed that contract negotiations begin with Johnson for the city manager position. Johnson’s contract will appear on the council’s Sept. 19 agenda, according to a city news release.

Prior to selecting Johnson, the council received input from the community and employees. A thorough evaluation of his qualifications and fit as city manager was also conducted, the press release states.

The council’s prompt selection of Johnson follows revelations that for multiple years Lichtig has had a succession plan of turning over the reins to him. In 2015, Johnson swapped places with Michael Codron, with Johnson taking over as assistant city manager and Codron shifting to the job of community development director. Lichtig recently said the move was part of a purposeful succession planning effort.

Last month, Lichtig announced she is resigning as SLO city manager to become chief operating officer/assistant city manager of Santa Monica, where she began her municipal career. Her last working day in SLO will be Sept. 28.

Prior to joining the city of San Luis Obispo in 2011, Johnson worked as the general manager of the Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District from 1996 to 2006 and as Santa Barbara County’s director of long-range planning from 2006 to 2010. In 2010 and 2011, Johnson served as community development director for the city of Capitola.

Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara in environmental studies. He has also completed the United States Army Communications and Combat School.

In addition to serving as community development director and assistant city manager in SLO, Johnson worked a stint of about six months as interim finance and information technology director.

The current San Luis Obispo council says Johnson’s extensive executive leadership, vision and practical experience are reasons for his selection.

It is unclear how much money the council is considering offering Johnson. Last year, Lichtig received a base salary of more than $230,000 and more than $337,000 in total pay.


The city of SLO owes CalPERS $153,000,000 and climbing for pension obligations including $5000 a month for the rest of her life to Katie Lichtig. The city owes $60,000,000 in other long term debt like bonds on parking structures. The city is technically insolvent and trying to shore things up through rampant development and fees and fines. So we hire a handpicked successor with… a degree in Environmental Studies?

I hope you will take this job more seriously than Katie did, and force the council to be fiscally responsible for the sake of the future of our city, but I’m not going to hold my breath.


I can’t wait to se the new and creative ways he comes up with to steal more money from people who work and give it to government.

I suggest the following agenda items for our new tax waster in chief

Mandate city Parking meters in private lots – city workers need the pension prop ups

Toll booths on chorro street manned 24 hrs by govt. workers. This should slow traffic even more than the obstacle course they built.

Building a fitness center for the homeless. It’s not fair that people with jobs and money can join places like Kennedy and the homeless have no where to go to stay fit.

A stadium rivaling the cowboys for the San Luis blue to attract better players to their roster.


You think Lichtig was in the pocket of developers, wait until you see Johnson in action.


gosh, i hope he gets a nice big raise. after all, need the best and the brightest!


That’s a very big smile for a very happy bureaucrat!


Lichtig’s contribution to our town: government by press release. Wow!

On the positive side, shows that even someone as dull as Lichtig realized Codron wasn’t city manager material.


How much more money are you going to pay over the last city manager so you won’t loose this very valuable person? A lot I’m sure as we can’t let such talent go somewhere else. Do you people actually think he will go somewhere else if he is actually paid what he’s worth. If he does great. No city manager should make that much money as the people who run the country make less and have more responsibility.


I don’t know the man and he be a very nice fellow, But this is just a continuation of the same old game and at the same time increasing the salary, benefits, retirement and the addition of an additional retirement program for the same old thing. Similar to what happened in Atascadero when that city was talked into hiring from within who was trained by that city manager. Where are the different ideas and and personalities? These city’s just don’t seem to want to progress with the modern times and just keep the good old boys/girls in place to keep benefiting from the excessive salaries and benefits that they keep giving themselves. Just remember every time they cry that they don’t have enough funds and they need more of our money that close to 75% of it goes into their pockets.


Yeah, that was a real nail-biter waiting for that decision.