The Merced City Council has named a new city attorney, a veteran municipal lawyer who most recently worked in Huntington Beach.
Jennifer McGrath won unanimous approval from the council during its session Monday. She is set to take the office in two weeks.
“I’m very excited to join the team in Merced. I’m excited with the opportunities here,” the 47-year-old said in a news release. “The UC community and the high-speed rail are significant projects.”
UC Merced is moving toward its second phase of growth, which would essentially double the campus and make room for 10,000 students. The city is also set to have a high-speed rail stop, scheduled to be operational in 2019.
I’m very excited to join the team in Merced. I’m excited with the opportunities here.
Jennifer McGrath, Merced’s new city attorney
McGrath, who has more than 20 years of experience in municipal law, is set to make $180,000 annually, which is the same amount paid to Randolph Hom, the previous city attorney who left after just nine months on the job.
Mayor Stan Thurston spoke highly of McGrath.
“We were very impressed with her experience in a city more or less the same size as Merced,” Thurston said. “The council feels she will be an excellent fit with the city manager’s goals.”
McGrath has experience with downtown-related issues, development of a senior center, business improvement districts, employee negotiations and housing programs, among other projects, according to city staff.
We were very impressed with her experience in a city more or less the same size as Merced.
Mayor Stan Thurston
She studied for a bachelor’s at UCLA and finished law school at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.
Merced has been without a city attorney since December, when Hom left for a similar position in Cupertino.
Hom never moved to Merced from his Bay Area home after being hired early last year. He left his $180,000 contract in Merced for a $214,200 position in Cupertino.
Roseville-based consulting firm Bob Murray and Associates worked with the city to find McGrath. The consulting firm is the same company the city used to find Steve Carrigan, who’s been city manager since Jan. 25.
In Huntington Beach, the city attorney position is an elected office. McGrath first won election there in 2002, and was re-elected multiple times even after a high-profile DUI conviction. She was arrested in 2005 and pleaded guilty, according to the Orange County Register.
City Manager Steve Carrigan said the council and city staff were aware of the conviction and were not concerned by it.
“That event took place 11 years ago,” he said. “She’s been a model employee and citizen since then. We’re happy to have her here at City Hall.”