Los Banos hires a city manager; start date April 22

04/04/2013 11:26 PM

04/05/2013 12:12 AM

A nearly yearlong search ended Wednesday with the hiring of a city manager.

The City Council unanimously voted for Steve Carrigan as city manager. Carrigan officially will take over April 22 and be paid $156,000 a year, or $13,000 per month. Former City Manager Steve Rath was making $159,000 a year upon retirement Oct. 31.

Carrigan, 50, is assistant city manager of Sanger. He said he'll be in Los Banos on April 17 and is looking forward to immersing himself in the community and tackling city projects.

"I'm just a regular guy who wants to come in and work hard," Carrigan said, adding he'll use the first 100 days to learn and listen to officials and community members.

"Economic development is my strength and background," he said.

Carrigan has worked for Sanger, about 15 miles east of Fresno, for 16 months, and before that spent eight years as economic development director in Stockton. He has more than 20 years of experience in the public sector, according to a news release.

Carrigan said he took the assistant manager position, which was brand-new at the time, with an eye on the top executive's office, a plan he said he made clear to Sanger officials. He said he was able to "fine tune" his skills in that position.

"I really feel I have the potential to be a very good -- or a great -- city manager," he said.

Stockton, in a tailspin while dealing with a $30 million budget crisis, laid off Carrigan in 2009 along with two other department leaders and 29 police officers. The city officially filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and was granted Chapter 9 protection this week.

Carrigan called Stockton's hardships "a perfect storm" of upside-down home values and bad waterfront projects such as an arena and ballpark. He said his projects were shopping centers, what he called hubs for jobs and tax revenue.

"I'm very proud of my projects in Stockton," Carrigan said.

In Sanger, Carrigan worked on budgets, public safety, economic development and water negotiations, among other operations, the release stated.

Mayor Mike Villalta praised Carrigan in a news release.

"Steve brings a broad range of experience to Los Banos that will prove valuable as we focus on important areas of economic and community development," Villalta said in the release.

Villalta said staff will hold an open house at City Hall for residents to meet Carrigan on April 17. No time has been set, according to staff.

The City Council approved Carrigan's employment agreement, which includes a three-year contract with benefits, a relocation reimbursement not to exceed $5,000 and a housing allowance of $1,250 a month for a maximum of six months.

City Attorney William Vaughn said the temporary allowance is meant to encourage a move to town sooner.

"Those will be actual expenses, and he'll have to prove that he's spent those dollar amounts to receive a reimbursement," Vaughn said.

Carrigan's wife, Michelle, and two children will move at the end of the school year, the release stated.

It's been a year

The council hired recruiter Teri Black-Brann in April last year, speculating that it could hire a city manager by August, but snags along the way held up the process.

The search stalled during the November election, and Black-Brann recommended the council postpone the process until after new board members were seated. In December, she requested $4,000 be added to her fee. The addition brought the budgeted amount for recruitment to $29,500, according to city staff.

Since Nov. 1, Police Chief Gary Brizzee has been acting city manager as well. He has been paid a monthly salary of $10,937 to do both jobs, $770 more per month than he made as police chief.

Los Banos Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

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