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Gilroy City Hall. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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The Gilroy City Council was split on hiring a new community development director June 6 after some members questioned whether she would move closer to the area.

With a narrow 3-2 vote, the council appointed Sharon Goei to fill the position after Karen Garner resigned in December to take a position with El Dorado County. Councilmembers Fred Tovar and Carol Marques dissented, while Councilmembers Rebeca Armendariz and Zach Hilton were absent.

There was initially some confusion whether three affirmative votes were enough to approve Goei’s contract, but City Attorney Andy Faber clarified that the item would only need a majority of the councilmembers voting in favor to pass.

The community development director oversees various planning, building, housing, code enforcement and other development-related matters within the city.

Goei’s contract was initially placed on the council’s consent agenda, which is reserved for routine items that are approved with no discussion. But Tovar pulled it for review after he expressed concern whether Goei would move to the Gilroy area from her current East Bay residence.

“I am in no way questioning the qualifications of this candidate,” Tovar said. “I want to know that whoever we hire in this type of position is going to be someone who’s vested in our community, knows our community and will be around after the clock hits 5 o’clock.”

Marques said she had the same concerns.

“I would feel much more comfortable if I hear the person has purchased a home in Gilroy, has invested in the community and is not just renting,” she said.

Goei, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from UC Los Angeles, has worked for more than two decades in the cities of Stockton, Walnut Creek, Santa Clara and currently in Milpitas, where she serves as director of building and housing.

Her salary will be $195,892, plus benefits, according to the contract.

City Administrator Jimmy Forbis said the city can’t legally “force” employees to live in the area, saying that if it had such a requirement, “we will lose about half of our employees.”

“My commitment to the council is whoever we hire at the executive level needs to prove their commitment to the area or they won’t be successful,” he said. “Living close does make things a lot easier, but I also have to acknowledge that the market doesn’t allow us to be very picky on where people live, when a lot of times they can’t afford to live here, even on a very good salary.”

Goei is scheduled to begin her new position on July 18.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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