While Long Beach is searching for a new city manager to replace Donna Gayden, who resigned in January after nearly three years in the post, Ron Walsh, the city’s police commissioner and now its acting city manager, has said he is interested in taking the job permanently.
In an interview last weekend, Walsh, 57, who has been overseeing City Council meetings since Gayden left, said he would be interested in becoming city manager should the council ask him to assume the job.
Earlier this month, the council hired a search firm to help it find a new city manager. It contracted with Pracademic Partners LLC, of Livonia, “for an initial 30 days at a cost not to exceed $5,000,” the agreement states.
Walsh said he has not been campaigning for the job, but added, “I am confident of my abilities, and I am all for Long Beach.” He said he knew of no major changes he would make if he became city manager.
Walsh, who has been in public service for three and a half decades, was hired as Long Beach’s police chief in early 2021. He previously spent nine years on the Locust Valley Board of Education, and served on the Nassau-Suffolk school board as well. Before coming to Long Beach, he was chief of support for the Nassau County Police Department.
Walsh’s salary in Long Beach is about $189,000 a year, and he received a waiver from the state to collect his Nassau County pension, which is also over $100,000. Without the waiver, he would not have been able to earn over $35,000 or so in Long Beach and keep the pension. Walsh is a resident of Freeport. Neither he nor Long Beach police officers are required to live in the city.
Walsh said he would like to remain police commissioner even if he becomes city manager. He said he wanted to remain “a certified police officer” in the event that he wanted to return to law-enforcement some day.
The only person in recent memory to hold both posts in Long Beach was Michael Tangney, who retired in 2020 as police commissioner after a 20-year career with the Police Department. He, too, was once both police commissioner and acting city manager, assuming that post in 2017, after the city manager at the time, Jack Schnirman, was elected Nassau County comptroller. Tangney died last year, at age 66.
Eileen Hession, of Long Beach, who regularly attends City Council meetings, said she believed Walsh would make a good city manager, but added that he should not hold both jobs at the same time.
“Being police commissioner is a full-time job,” Hession said, “and being city manager is a full-time job.”
James Hodge, a former board chairman of the Martin Luther King Center, said that Walsh had learned the administrative tasks of the city manager’s job quickly, and had been responsive to the public. But, Hodge said, he believed that residents, and not a consulting firm hired by the city, should select a new city manager.
“We’ve had enough of consultants,” Hodge said.
City Council members said they could not comment while the selection process was ongoing.
Walsh’s tenure as police commissioner was marked by disputes with the department’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which at the time was headed by Brian Wells, who has since retired from the department. Wells had said he felt Walsh was micro-managing the department. Walsh denied that, and since Wells’ departure, relations between the commissioner and the PBA have been on an even keel.