Surf City has lost its second city manager in two years, with Al Zelinka announcing Wednesday morning he was leaving after a year and a half on the job and being replaced by the city’s police chief Eric Parra.
Parra is also slated to remain the police chief as he oversees the daily operations of city hall as city manager.
It’d been rumored for days that Zelinka was on his way out after the city council scheduled a discussion on a “public employee appointment” during their meeting behind closed doors on Tuesday evening.
His replacement Eric Parra was unanimously appointed by the city council in a closed door meeting last night according to a Wednesday morning news release – a fact the council didn’t disclose last night.
While he’s only been Huntington Beach’s Police Chief for the last two years, he’s been an officer for over three decades.
Parra will be an interim city manager while the city looks for a possible replacement.
In the statement, Zelinka said he wants to have more time to take care of his aging mother.
“This is requiring more time, attention, and work schedule flexibility than possible while concurrently rendering professional services to the City of Huntington Beach,” Zelinka said. “I am grateful for my time serving the City Council and the HB community as well as proud of the many accomplishments realized and the important work underway by the top notch City staff.”
Parra is also a licensed attorney, according to the city’s news release, which noted he got his law degree from Western State University College of Law.
According to the state Bar Association’s website, while Parra got his degree in 1995, his law license was declared “inactive” by 1996.
Zelinka and Parra were both praised by Mayor Tony Strickland in a Wednesday statement approving the new appointment.
“I wish (Zelinka) well in his retirement from public service,” Strickland said. Chief Parra has proven to be an exceptional leader and I am thrilled he is willing to take over as City Manager.”
Because his resignation goes into immediate effect and was offered up voluntarily, he’s not owed any severance pay, according to his contract.
Parra’s appointment comes as the city council majority has been pushing through a host of controversial measures – like monitoring which books can go into city libraries, getting into dueling lawsuits with state officials over housing mandates and eliminating several city commissions, including the one aimed at combating hate crimes and actions.
The city’s also been struggling financially, forcing the city council to make over $7 million in cuts to try and keep the budget balanced.
While California’s housing lawsuit against Surf City in state court has been paused, the city’s lawsuit arguing the state doesn’t have to answer to state housing mandates at the federal level is still moving forward.
State leaders warn if Surf City loses, the city could be on the hook for massive fines, but until the case is resolved they’re not allowed to levy any penalties.
Zelinka joins at least four other city department heads who’ve left this year, forcing the city to hire replacements for them or appoint interim leaders for the Community Development, Finance, Public Works, and the Community and Library Services departments.
He took over for Oliver Chi, who left the city at the end of 2021 to take over as Irvine’s city manager, where he hired at least three of the department heads who fled Surf City this past year.
Before coming to Huntington Beach, Zelinka worked for the city of Riverside for a decade, including four years as their city manager.
After publication, city officials said Parra would be the interim city manager after previously claiming he would be permanent. The story has been updated.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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