Ceres consolidates departments but a top manager departs

The Ceres City Council unanimously approved a plan to split the engineering and public works departments into two divisions with two leaders.

However, the existing head of the two departments announced his resignation, effectively bringing efforts to lighten the load of its directors back to square one.

The resignation of Glenn Gebhardt was announced after the reorganization vote Monday.

Gebhardt was tabbed to head the the smaller engineering department, while deputy chief Michael Brinton was promoted to oversee the larger Public Works Department. He received a 5 percent raise.

However, Gebhardt accepted a similar position with the city of Lathrop, where he once worked.

He said Wednesday his move to Lathrop had nothing to do with the Ceres reorganization but was driven by retirement options. Ceres uses the Stanislaus County Employee Retirement Association, while Lathrop and most other California cities use CalPERS.

Gebhardt deferred comment about the changes the Ceres council made.

“That is really the city manager’s call,” he said. “That is their decision.”

A second part of the reorganization moves control of the Vacant Housing Division from Redevelopment and Economic Development Manager Bryan Briggs to Planning and Building manager Tom Westbrook. Westbrook will also receive a 5 percent raise.

All four positions now report to Deputy City Manager Sheila Cumberland instead of interim City Manager Art de Werk, who is also police chief and public safety director. The reconfiguration, in part, will relieve him of oversight of two departments and level the workload.

Since being named interim city manager in December, de Werk said he has met with every supervisor, manager and department head to improve efficiency. The reorganization is a product of those meetings.

“The way we had engineering and public works combined simply wasn’t working with one person trying to do both,” he said. “In the last year two supervisor positions were eliminated from public works. That had the effect of pushing upward more decision making and daily involvement then was previously needed.”

With Gebhardt’s resignation, the two departments will again be run by one person - Brinton, at least temporarily.

De Werk said they city will likely use an engineering firm to hire an interim engineering director while searching for a permanent director.