City of Exeter appoints former Visalia deputy city manager Eric Frost as interim city manager
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
EXETER – The news of Randy Groom’s departure from Exeter top spot to Visalia’s was jarring. In particular for a city who is also on the search for a new police chief and had just hired a finance director. But things appear to be looking up for the organization in such flux.
As of Tuesday, Dec. 19 the City Council appointed former Visalia deputy city manager Eric Frost as Exeter’s interim city manager. According to a staff agenda the City has agreed to contract with Frost for no more than 960 working hours during fiscal year 2017-2018 at an hourly rate of $70.87 per hour which is consistent with the established salary of the city administrator position.
“I have worked around Eric Frost over many years, in my different capacities. He is extremely well grounded in municipal finance and administration and will provide Exeter extremely capable interim leadership,” departing city manager Randy Groom said.
Frost has been working in municipal government for over 30 years. Having started as an intern with the City of Visalia in 1982, he became assistant finance director within the decade and then took on the finance director position in Watsonville, Calif. in 1991. He returned to Visalia in 2003 as an administrative services director until he became deputy city manager. It was not until April of this year that he retired.
Since his retirement though he has been doing some governmental odds and ends around the area. Frost contracted with the City of Lindsay for six months to help new finance director Bret Harmon settle the City’s struggling financial outlook, which is a similar task to Exeter’s current budget deficit.
Just two months ago the City filled former finance director Sheri Emerson’s position with Chris Tavarez. And in the fiscal year Exeter was looking at how to hack away at a mounting $345,000 budget gap. Groom has long believed that the outlook for the City is not likely to fix itself and they will have to turn to voters to increase the City’s sales tax rate. Fortunately for Exeter Frost played a large role as Visalia’s liaison while the City was campaigning for their sales tax increase Measure N. Provided that Exeter will have to put a sales tax increase on ballot in November 2018 Frost might be the right person to enter the situation at the right time.
“It’s a good match…[ Exeter also has] a new finance director and I was a finance director for 30 years…there’s just a natural fit,” Frost said.
According to Frost there is reason for excitement when it comes to changes in town. He said one unique thing Exeter has going for it is downtown. Frost added that there is a lot of buy-in from residents, the Chamber of Commerce and the City when it comes to downtown vitality and by capitalizing on that is one way to move forward.
But recognizing the need for a sales tax measure is only half the battle, the other half is selling it. Because Frost played liaison for Visalia in 2016 for Measure N he has experienced eyes when it comes to providing a successful point of view.
“Sometimes the Council needs someone that has been in the trenches on some things,” Frost said. “I hope I can bring some perspective on the sales tax measure this year.”
While he will be the one to kick off the campaign it will be another city manager who will have to finish it. Essentially 960 hours is no more than half a year, and Frost is expected to start his first full day on Jan. 2. The docket is pretty full for the soon to be interim city manager amongst helping a new finance director settle into his new position and lining everything up for a sales tax measure he will also be the one helping identify a long term city manager. But for now the City is in capable hands.
“Much more than a caretaker, Eric has very specific expertise that will be of immediate benefit to the Council and organization. I have no worries in stepping out of the bridge with Eric at the wheel,” Groom added.