Lindsay tables clerk decision, Harmon to be interim city manager
City Council puts brakes on appointing new city clerk which would free current clerk, finance director to take on interim city manager job after Zigler departs Aug. 31
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
LINDSAY – Lindsay City Council knows they are going to have a new city manager in September, at least on an interim basis. But they are wanting to know more about the person who will be filling in as city clerk.
Bret Harmon has managed to play both city clerk and the director of finance for more than a year. The plan has been to have another clerk sworn in before Harmon takes over as interim city manager when Bill Zigler retires on Aug. 31. But before that can happen the City Council needs to vote on a candidate. Right now the only candidate presented to them is deputy city clerk Jack Urquhart.
Instead of a quick vote last Tuesday, July 23, the Council ultimately voted to table talks until their next council meeting.
Councilwoman Yolanda Flores said she was not sure that they gave longer tenured employees an opportunity to apply for the job. She mentioned as well how weary she is about the community’s perception of the City hiring outside of the community.
“I struggle with the perception of the hiring procedures we had in place and that’s what’s giving me pause in doing this…when we are perceived as giving more of an entitlement to other people and to others we are not giving them that opportunity,” Flores said to Zigler.
“When we go through the hiring process, we work tremendously hard to be unbiased…more often than not staff is not involved until the very end,” Zigler responded. “I recognize there are perceptions and I know how those can get perpetuated.”
Councilwoman Rosaena Sanchez shared Flores sentiment for giving longer standing employees an opportunity to apply.
“I understand it is not a promotion but maybe someone else wants to do something like that that has been with the city for a long time,” Sanchez said.
Harmon says that Urquhart has been a talent for the City since he arrived as deputy city clerk, two months ago.
“Jack Urquhart is a perfect fit for the position…Three things I appreciate most about him is his willingness to take on any project, his communication skills and his technical skills. He also speaks Spanish,” Harmon said in an email with the Sun-Gazette.
Harmon added that Urquhart worked for a city in Washington while he earned his Masters in Public Administration degree. His bachelors degree is in communications, and worked as a news reporter before entering grad school.
Councilwoman Laura Cortes was ready to move forward with Urquhart’s appointment and motioned to do so. But without councilman Brian Watson there to second, the motion died. Flores and Sanchez said they would consider his appointment after reviewing his resume and any other pertinent documents, in addition to speaking with Urquhart himself.
Bill Zigler retiring
Zigler’s 42-year career in public service, and 21 year career with the City of Lindsay is coming to a close at the end of August. He says his retirement has been some time in the making. His wife, who sits on the Exeter planning commission, had ended her 32-year career in teaching last December and was anxious for him to join her.
Zigler was first hired at Lindsay as a geographic information system intern in 1998 while he was attending Fresno State. In August the following year he was hired full-time and held a variety of positions. In his time he went from city planner, director of planning and economic development, interim city manager and then city manager.
He was appointed interim shortly after the ousting of long time public safety chief and city manger Rich Wilkinson in 2015.
Before coming into the City Zigler served in the US Navy for almost 21 years. He retired as an Avionics Senior Chief Petty Officer in 1997.
Over the last four years and interim city manager and full-time city manager, Zigler has worked to get Lindsay’s finances in order.
“I think my most important accomplishment…is to have taken a direct and unapologetic approach in dealing with the City’s fiscal challenges, which required developing the team necessary to address these challenges,” Zigler said.
In this regard the City has made some strides. Zigler pointed out that he was involved in methodically cutting expenses that included outsourcing the McDermont Field House, raised general fund revenue with Measure O and sound financial recording in dealing with outside agencies.
According to Clint Ashcraft, owner of McDermont Venture Inc., the rebranded McDermont X turned a small profit last year. The first of its kind since it opened in 2009. Measure O, the one percent sales tax did bring in hundreds of thousands in additional general fund revenue. According to Harmon’s budget presentation last month, they expect Measure O to bring in as much as $1.1 million over the course of the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
For Lindsay, dealing with other governmental agencies has been a challenge. In 2017 the City cut a deal with the Tulare County Association of Governments to do away with the interest they paid on $1 million of misappropriated Measure R funds. They also managed to delay a year’s worth of quarterly payments from April 2018 to April 2019.
“Our team has accomplished many good things benefitting our community, but getting our financial house in order has been paramount,” Zigler said.
Leaving public service, and heading into the horizon of retirement, Zigler says he plans to continue cycle-touring and serve in a variety of capacities as a person faith.
“I might even work again – you never know,” Zigler added.
Harmon, says that he is excited about the opportunity to take over at the helm starting in September.
“The City has made great progress over the last few years. It is an honor to be able to continue our turnaround. Every role at the City is vital to its success. I have so much confidence in the department heads and their staff. They are remarkable people,” Harmon said.