10:00 PM PST on Tuesday, January 4, 2011

By LAURIE LUCAS
The Press-Enterprise

The mayor of Moreno Valley said Tuesday the most critical matter for 2011 is hiring a new city manager. So after the city clerk swore in Richard Stewart as mayor and Jesse Molina as mayor pro tem Tuesday night, the council met behind closed doors to interview city manager candidates.

Council members William Batey and Robin Hastings did not attend the ceremony.

Stewart said the council is looking at two strong applicants from cities comparable in size to Moreno Valley’s 190,000 residents.

“We need a city manager as soon as possible, but it will be very hard to get someone to take a pay cut,” he said during a phone interview Tuesday morning.

The urgency is intensified because the allotted time is almost up for the interim city manager, William Bopf. He came out of retirement in November 2009 after Moreno Valley’s previous city manager resigned. Bopf agreed to work until the city hired his replacement.

However, Stewart said that Bopf, who has worked more than 700 hours for Moreno Valley, is approaching his limit of 960 hours.

“He may just stop coming in five days a week to stretch out his time,” Stewart said. The council was closing in on Bopf’s replacement last summer, but it suspended its six-month search after Bopf belatedly declared himself a contender.

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