Local government set to retire

Tom Lando

Tom Lando

Photo By Tom Angel

Look for the mass exodus of veteran city employees by the end of the year as department heads and assistants announce their pending retirements.

Assistant City Manager Trish Dunlap will exit in early December, and Planning Director Kim Seidler will be close behind. Others headed for retirement this year include Risk Manager Bob Koch, Building Officer Mike Williams and Gary Scholar, Fire Department division chief.

Seidler, who came to Chico from Lake County eight years ago, said he hopes to remain in Chico, but that decision depends on family matters.

Soon after Seidler arrived, he told this paper, “I keep hearing ‘liberal and conservative,’ and that’s a first for me. My hope is we can find some sort of common ground in these land-use issues.”

As is to be expected, locals initially distrusted the new director. Those on the left who are against fast growth quickly labeled Seidler a “shill for the developers.”

But in fact Seidler proved to be a capable, straight-down-the-middle director who at public meetings displayed patience and a keen grasp of the issues and an effective style of explaining them to otherwise easily confused council and commission members.

One of the first things he told the planning commissioners, he told us, was to remember their priorities when discharging their responsibilities.

“You don’t represent the staff or council who appointed you, nor the applicant and its supporters. It is the 90,000 citizens, most of whom you will never hear from. You also represent their children and their unborn grandchildren.”

He told the commissioners to keep in mind that the closest thing they have to a community vision is the General Plan. “It is the constitution for development,” he said. “And everything else flows out of the General Plan.”

Kim Seidler

Photo By Tom Angel

Dunlap has served as assistant city manager since 1982, first with Fred Davis and later with Tom Lando. She was originally hired by the city as an administrative secretary 28 years ago.

“The decision [to retire] took me a long time to make, over a year,” Dunlap said this week. “I told Tom [Lando] in June.”

Dunlap, who said she’s never had her eye on the city manager position, planned to retire after Lando, who announced his retirement in April 2003, agreeing to stay on through September of that year. But that fall he was forced to have heart surgery and after his recuperation was convinced by the City Council to put off his retirement.

Lando has, perhaps only half-jokingly, described Dunlap as the “enforcer” of the city manager’s office.

“Well, yes, I do have to monitor things and keep them on track,” she said.

And in truth Dunlap is involved in nearly every aspect of city administrative duties, with the exception of planning, which is Lando’s area of expertise.

Dunlap’s duties have included coordinating city finances and budgets, public information, city contracts and purchasing and housing and community development, including rehabilitation and mortgage subsidy loans.

She grew up in Sacramento and, like so many other Chicoans, moved here to attend the university. She plans to remain here, she said.

“It’s just time to do some of those other things I’ve always wanted to do,” she said.

She will remain active in the Rotary Club and stay on the University Advisory Board.

Lando will officially announce his retirement later this year in what he called a “two-step process” in which he will stay on for another six months, as proposed by council, to ensure a smooth transition of duties.