It Occurs to Me: Appreciating the work of Merced County’s 6 city managers

07/31/2014 6:57 PM

07/31/2014 6:58 PM

Have you ever been frustrated or upset with some decisions that are made at a city council meeting or at city hall? I believe we all have at some point, especially when things don’t turn out as we expected or in our favor.

In the six cities of Merced County there is a city manager who makes daily decisions that affect city staff as well as residents of a community. It’s somewhat of a thankless job that carries a tremendous amount of responsibility.

Some of those responsibilities include providing leadership in upholding the city charter, guiding the city council in setting policies and procedures, and in maintaining state and federal regulations. They are also responsible for providing an annual proposed balanced budget to the city council.

The elected city council members hire and fire their city manager. The hiring process for a city manager might vary from one city to the next based on by-laws or policy.

In the past 14 years, I have had the opportunity to meet most of the county’s six city managers or, in one way or another, have communicated with each one. They are: John Bramble, Merced; Steve Tarrigan, Los Banos; Jose Ramirez, Livingston; Frank Pietro, Atwater; Darrell Fonseca, Dos Palos; and Greg Greeson, Gustine. They each have a tough job and are often blamed for any misfortune in their respective city.

I can remember not too long ago that the Dos Palos city manager was confronted with a tremendous decision regarding his position with the City Council members. He was removed from his position, for whatever reason, only to be rehired months later after certain City Council members were not re-elected to the council.

If you ever get the opportunity to meet Fonseca, one thing you will notice is his commitment to and passion for the community and residents of Dos Palos.

I feel the Livingston city manager faces more of a challenge than most of his colleagues; not that he doesn’t have some of the same challenges as the other five, but because he is the first Latino city manager. In my eyes, the expectations of him are much greater and because the majority of the population in Livingston is Latino, one of the assumptions is that there shouldn’t be any complaints or concerns from the residents.

Ramirez has assisted in bringing in a tremendous amount of funding into Livingston. He has attracted new development and businesses to the city, and assisted in increasing community participation whether it involves city issues or community events.

I have to admit that since he was hired as Livingston city manager, I have been pretty impressed with his knowledge, state and federal contacts, and relationships he established during previous jobs.

The new kid on the block was the recently hired Los Banos city manager. Tarrigan has already shown that he is willing to roll up his shirt sleeves to get to work on some issues facing Los Banos. One of the critical issues is the homeless population there. When he started his job as city manager, he didn’t waste any time in getting together with community representatives to meet and talk about solutions to this problem. That tells me he is eager to try to resolve or improve major concerns such as this one in Los Banos.

City managers have a tough job and I, for one, appreciate all their efforts in trying to provide direction that reflects the best interests of all the residents of their respective cities.

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