Tribute Held for Outgoing City Manager Reva Feldman

It was a remarkable send-off—few people would likely get the kind of praise given to outgoing city manager Reva Feldman when they leave a job. Emotions ran so high, multiple members of city staff and city officials broke down in tears.

It was difficult to guess what kind of turnout to expect when the city announced it would be hosting a virtual Zoom tribute for outgoing—embattled—city manager Feldman. Malibu residents have become extremely divided in their opinions about local city politics and City Hall. Two new city council members, Bruce Silverstein and Steve Uhring, used their campaigns to speak of getting rid of Feldman and proceeded to make her professionally miserable; eventually, she resigned—thereby fulfilling campaign promises.

But there’s a great deal of dissonance and disparity between those who worked closely with Feldman and know her well, versus the general public. According to those who spoke, some of her greatest strengths and accomplishments for the benefit of the city were not generally known or recognized—her style was to make things happen behind the scene. When misperceptions and distortions about Feldman’s actions surfaced on social media, she didn’t effectively counteract the messages.

The tribute to Feldman lasted nearly three hours. At least 150 people watched on Zoom over the course of the event, plus more than 50 on YouTube and however many watched via the city’s website or TV.

It would be nearly impossible for anyone watching the tribute to come away with anything other than respect for Feldman’s ability to form alliances and partnerships with a huge spectrum of agencies and organizations—all of which were necessary to run our unique city and get anything done.

City employees at all levels, past and present, said she was the best city manager they had ever worked for, after they worked for several both here and elsewhere. Many said she always had an attitude of “How can I help?” Her fiscal management of the city, even with reduced revenues due to the Woolsey Fire and the pandemic, was excellent. Several mentioned she would routinely be on the phone in the middle of the night and on weekends when issues arose.

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While one of the biggest criticisms of Feldman had been her perceived absence during the most critical parts of the Woolsey Fire, a number of high-level officials talked about being with her and working very closely with her throughout the crisis. In addition, one resident dispelled the myth that she went on vacation the week after the fire—she was here, and she even brought in food and supplies.

Below are select comments from a handful of the many people who spoke at the tribute:

State Assemblymember Richard Bloom: “All of these 16 years we’ve worked together, starting with my time on the Santa Monica City Council … It’s a tough job—a 24-hour operation. Reva, you’ve comported yourself well, and you’ll be sorely missed.”

School Board Member Craig Foster: “It’s an emotional moment for all of us. You’ve been there for the kids of Malibu as a parent and through crisis after crisis and have always been our best ally. You hired an amazing team of consultants and got us in front of the county. I don’t think there’s words to tell you how grateful all of us are. You’re dignified, smart, strong, diplomatic and a great role model for the kids.”

LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl: “You’re tireless, super smart and care very deeply for your constituents. You oversaw Malibu’s first City Hall building, the library re-do and built up communications. You were an amazing leader in the crisis of the Woolsey Fire, and don’t think you’re escaping my friendship when you leave.”

LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby: “It strikes me that most Malibu residents are totally unaware of the close contacts and alliances that Reva had with officials outside the city, and how much regard they had for her.”

Schools Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati: “We were able to collaborate and get the schools through the ordeals of Woolsey and the mudslides. The new school looks awesome, and you helped our staff work through the maze of getting something built in the city of Malibu to get it put up that fast.”

Senior VP & COO of Pepperdine University Phil Phillips—”I’ll never forget when we lost our student in the Borderline shooting, and I saw you attending the prayer service.”

Former Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station Malibu Liaison Jennifer Seetoo—”I’ll never forget when you walked through the door with tons of pizza for everybody during Woolsey.”

Resident Dermot Stoker: “[Former city manager Jim] Thorsen depended on you more than people know. You’re a treasure to the city. They’ll have to hire three to four people to replace you.”

Attorney Ken Ehrlich: “You’d send me texts and emails on off-hours that only an attorney could appreciate. I so appreciate that you’d always take my calls and read my emails even when we didn’t agree.”

LA County Library Director Skye Patrick: “She’s dedicated and wicked smart; and the first city manager to welcome me. She was ready and willing to work with me and indoctrinate me and help figure out the social issues we’ve got at the library. You’ve been an ally and a partner to me.”

Meghan McKelvey, California League of Cities: “Reva quickly got involved in many roles and conferences. Her expertise and wisdom has been shared with and implemented in many cities in California. I would call her a mentor, a confidante and a friend.”

Terry Dipple, Las Virgenes Council of Governments: “Reva was the strongest advocate for her city of any of the city managers, always calling to get additional resources, et cetera, during Woolsey.”

“I never wanted to be a public servant, but I loved being a public servant in Malibu,” Reva said in closing comments. “I will always care about Malibu. My heart is here. The city staff members are the unsung heroes of the community. I’d call people 24 hours a day and they had a good attitude—I’ve been on conference calls with them at 2 a.m. and it truly is a family.

“I’ve worked with 16 council members who were brave enough to move things forward that wouldn’t happen in other communities,” Feldman continued. “I may be leaving as city manager, but I will still be your friend.”

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