San Luis Obispo city manager resigning

February 22, 2024

SLO City Manager Derek Johnson


San Luis Obispo City Manager Derek Johnson announced plans to resign his post, after accepting the chief executive officer position in Marin County, Johnson announced Thursday.

Johnson has worked for San Luis Obispo for 12 years – the last six and a half as city manager. Johnson plans to leave his city post in April.

City officials are discussing a transition plan to ensure progress on key city goals and priorities continue, Mayor Erica Stewart said.

“We are thankful for Derek’s leadership at the city,” Stewart said. “Derek’s guidance and fiscal responsibility leaves behind a city in good financial health with a talented team, who are prepared to carry on the important work of the city. We are looking forward to working with staff to develop an interim plan as well as a strategy to fill the city manager position long term.”

The City Council plans to meet in closed session to discuss interim appointments and recruitment plans, though a date for the meeting has not yet been set.

In Marin County, Johnson will lead an organization of over 2,500 employees and a budget approaching $1 billion.

“SLO will always be in my heart and the opportunity to return to my hometown in this brand-new role was just a perfect fit for where I am professionally and personally at this stage of life,” said Johnson, who grew up in Marin County. “That does not mean it was an easy decision. I am so proud of what our city team has accomplished and the sense of teamwork that has been created, among our City Council, city staff and the community.”


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At best, Derek Johnson has an uneven track record of success in San Luis Obispo. Mr. Johnson was closely linked to the disgraced former Mayor, Heidi Harmon, and, together, they oversaw the destruction of our once-quaint downtown district, increased property taxes, overly permissive policies towards the drug bum crowd, and scandals regarding the issuance of retail marijuana outlets.

San Luis Obispo needs to embrace leadership who will govern to the middle and clean up the downtown mess created under Harmon and Johnson.

Derek is the smartest City Manager in this County and like all the smart ones, he realizes he’s got a shelf life and was starting to get stale. I’m not saying he was perfect but he fought hard for the city, maybe too hard. County CAO is a big jump. He should do well, tho.

Regarding unfunded pension obligations that’s how CalPERs allocates its debt to all the sponsors. If the city were to close today, that would be the debt owed, but on an ongoing basis the payments to CalPERS are calculated to eventually reach a fully funded status. The city is solvent.

“Derek is the smartest City Manager in this Country”?!? That is painfullywrong. Unless this is Derek self promoting under a pseudonym, all I will agree to is that Derek was a small step up from Katie Lichtig…the worst City Manager in the Country. Glad to see that we will get a new City Manager. First order of business is to clean up downtown, with the police department and parking a close second.

Read more carefully, smartest in the county….not country. One could even say smartest in the county isn’t a high bar :)

My apologies, big difference between country and county. That said, I am glad to see him go. Although unlikely, I am hoping we get someone of more quality.

No prob! Thanks.

My guess is it internal: Asst City Mgr. Whitney McDonald, they brought her over from AG (City Mgr.) as a trial period with the leadership surmising that Derek was on the move… County leadership hates her, so it’s a good fit :)

“Derek’s guidance and fiscal responsibility leaves behind a city in good financial health with a talented team, who are prepared to carry on the important work of the city.” What has this mayor been smoking? The city owes CalPERS $180,000,000 and counting for retired city employees, and millions more on various bond issues. The city is technically insolvent and has been for some time.

Think globally and act locally. Seems like SLO is right on track.

Good luck Derek and congrats on the next rung in the ladder. The only downside will likely be traffic and affordable housing, other than that, it will all be over soon and you can come back. Don’t sell here and sleep in a camper there.

Good riddance!

Have the assistant city manager take over and dont fill the assistant position and save some money….

Nice idea but unfortunely it will never happen.

Lets move before they raise the parking rates.