FREMONT — When Karena Shackelford takes the reins as new city manager this month, the longtime city employee will become the first African American to hold the top administrative spot in the 65-year history of the Bay Area’s fourth largest city.
Shackelford was unanimously appointed to the position Tuesday by the Fremont City Council following the the apparent ouster of former city manager Mark Danaj in late September.
“It’s an honor and privilege to announce the selection of Karena Shackelford as Fremont’s next city manager,” Mayor Lily Mei said in a statement Wednesday.
“Karena is a dynamic leader in our city organization with a proven track record of leading complex projects, effectively implementing the council’s policy direction, and building positive relationships throughout the organization and community,” Mei said.
Shackelford has more than two decades of experience in local government, according to the city statement, beginning as an employee in San Jose, before being hired by Fremont in 2006.
For the last three years, Shackelford has served as assistant city manager in Fremont.
“I am so proud and honored to assume this important responsibility for my hometown and the city where I’ve spent the majority of my career,” Shackelford said in the statement.
“I want to thank the city council for their trust in me and for their leadership as we continue to ensure Fremont is seen as a model city in fostering innovation and addressing issues that our community cares about.”
Shalckelford will become the ninth city manager in Fremont’s history. Fred Diaz, who is Mexican American, became the first Latino to hold the city manager role when he was hired in 2004.
Shackelford has served in an array of roles in the city, most recently managing day-to-day operations and overseeing the public works, community services, and information technology services departments.
Prior to becoming assistant city manager, Shackelford worked as deputy city manager, overseeing the city clerk’s office, legislative affairs, communications, organizational development, and city council relations, according to the city.
She also previously worked as the city’s interim chief technology services director, interim public works director, deputy public works director, deputy director of maintenance, and business manager.
Shackelford grew up in Fremont, and holds a bachelor’s of science degree in business administration from San Jose State University, as well as a master’s of business administration from Saint Mary’s College, and is a member of the International City/County Management Association, according to the city.
“As city manager, I will champion Fremont’s strong tradition of fiscal sustainability, safety and excellent customer service,” Shackelford said.
Shackelford’s employment contract with the city will be voted on by the council at its regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 19, according to the city.
Danaj, the former city manager since September 2018, suddenly resigned in late September, without explanation.
While city officials have repeatedly declined to comment on the reason for his departure, a separation agreement obtained by this news organization suggested Danaj may have been forced out by the council, and was paid more than $300,000 in severance by the city.
Danaj was arrested Sept. 15 in San Francisco on suspicion of domestic battery and false imprisonment, police said, about two weeks before he submitted his resignation. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against him for lack of evidence.
City leaders apparently knew of the arrest, according to Danaj’s attorney, but both city officials and his attorney would not comment on whether the incident played a role in his exit from the city.
Assistant city manager Brian Stott is currently serving as interim city manager until Shackelford officially takes the post, according to the city.