Merced’s top administrator will retire at the end of the year.
City Manager John Bramble said he intends to retire Dec. 5. The City Council has about six months to recruit a replacement.
Bramble, 69, said he’s been a public employee for 45 years, seven of those in Merced, and he’s ready to step down.
“It’s been a good run. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Bramble said Tuesday. “But, it’s probably time for somebody else to take the reins and take it to the next level.”
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Bramble announced his retirement Monday during the City Council meeting.
He came to Merced from Brighton, Colo., in October 2008 at a time when the city was projecting dwindling revenues, including a 10 percent decline in sales tax revenue. City leaders made ends meet by relying on $12 million in rainy-day money with $5 million that came from the general fund reserves.
A third of those cuts came after the budget approval, saving an additional $766,000 in salaries and benefits.
“Things were hurting all over the nation,” Bramble said. “I mean, I think I’ve made a difference here.”
The proposed budget for the coming fiscal year projects an increase of about $750,000 in the general fund. For the first time in several years, the city has money to add positions.
Councilman Mike Murphy said as the city’s top administrator, Bramble had an important role in helping the city recover. “John guided us through a very difficult financial time,” Murphy said. “The council had a lot of tough decisions to make, and he helped the city to balance its budget.”
With six months to search for Bramble’s replacement, Murphy said, the city should be able to look at candidates in and out of the region.
Bramble said he’s proud of the changes the city’s staff has made to improve customer service and recruit businesses. He said his biggest regret was that he could not bring more jobs to town.
Before his exit, Bramble said, he wants to focus on the retail center planned for development at Mission Avenue and Highway 99. Beyond that, he said, he wants to hammer out a revenue-sharing agreement with Merced County.
“We’ve been at it since I’ve been here,” he said. “It feels like it’s just time to get something accomplished there.”
Bramble has been controversial at times.
In March, he and the council felt the ire of the Merced Police Officers Association, which posted an open letter to its Facebook page claiming the officials’ “mismanagement has driven the department and city into the ground.”
Since that letter, Bramble has proposed new firefighter, police, recreation and other city staff positions in the coming fiscal year’s budget.
Bramble was also the focus of an investigation in January 2013 that noted three allegations, including interference with union organizing, retaliation against an employee and gender bias against women. The investigator determined all three allegations to be unfounded.
Bramble makes $175,086, according to the Merced’s salary schedule.