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Modesto fire chief climbs ladder at City Hall

The top-tier shuffle at Modesto City Hall continues, with Fire Chief Jim Miguel promoted to acting deputy city manager, a position he could hold for the next year.

The move leaves vacancies at the top of the city's two public safety agencies. Former Police Chief Roy Wasden became Turlock's city manager in June.

Miguel replaces Judith Ray, who dropped two rungs to deputy parks director.

Ray's yearly salary was reduced from $165,766 to $120,660. The Bee was unable to reach her Friday. City Manager Greg Nyhoff said she requested the move.

Fire Division Chief Mike Kraus is the new acting fire chief, reporting to Miguel. That is similar to the Police Department, where Assistant Police Chief Mike Harden was named acting chief when Wasden left.

However, Harden is a candidate for the permanent job, while Miguel says he won't seek to remain deputy city manager.

"I have no long-term interest in leaving the Fire Department," said Miguel, the city's longest serving department head after seven years as fire chief. "It's where I've been, it's where my heart is. But I also have an interest in helping out where needed."

Miguel's duties include overseeing the finance department and helping to reorganize the human resources department.

Finance lost its director, Wayne Padilla, when he resigned in June to take a job in another city. Human resources has been managed by a consultant since its director, Robin Renwick, recently retired.

Three of the nine members on Modesto's senior executive team remain since Nyhoff took over in June 2008. That doesn't include the city attorney, clerk and auditor, who report to the City Council instead of Nyhoff.

"The beauty of it is I haven't fired any of them," Nyhoff said. "It's not like I came in with my ax and started chopping away. I believed there was a need to see some changes in the way we did business. I laid it out as clearly as I possibly could and I'm very happy to work with those who are still here."

Half of Ray's new salary will be paid from federal housing grants, Nyhoff said. And she assumes combined duties of the housing programs manager and deputy parks director, both previously vacant, Nyhoff said.

Miguel and Kraus might receive 5 percent bonuses to their respective annual salaries of $165,766 and $121,404, Nyhoff said. That's more than offset by the savings from Ray's salary reduction and not having to pay a housing manager. And Nyhoff said he won't fill two other deputy director positions.

"We're going to operate a little leaner on top," Nyhoff said. "It's actually fun and exciting to watch new people say, 'Hey, I'm here; put me in, Coach.' "

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or 578-2390.

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