Finally, the largest city in the Tri-Counties has a permanent city manager.
On April 15, Oxnard City Council voted 4-1 to give Modesto City Manager Greg Nyhoff a contract with a base salary of $265,000 a year. Nyhoff will start June 1. He will fill a void that’s existed since Ed Sotelo was put on paid leave early in 2012. That means Oxnard spent two years and four months with no one at the helm.
Sotelo’s departure came amid a lengthy investigation by District Attorney Greg Totten that found a city administration that was wasteful and inefficient in handling taxpayer money, but the bad management didn’t rise to standards for criminal prosecution.
As a new team prepares to step in, we offer a few words of advice:
• Take Totten’s report on inefficiency and waste seriously. A municipality as large as Oxnard is going to be tough to manage. But efficiency in city government, stretching and not wasting the taxpayers’ money should be the hallmark of the new administration. Hint: As Ventura County gears up for major pension reform, Oxnard should follow suit. Playing into the escalating public pay game will ultimately be a loss for taxpayers.
• Public safety is No. 1. The inefficiencies that took place in the Sotelo era clearly took management’s eye off the ball on dealing with gangs and crime issues. “Going Oxnard” is now a derogatory term in the regional media for gang violence, and that’s an image that won’t be repaired overnight. A more efficient city government is one that runs lean in non-necessary areas so that it has funds for on-the-ground policing and other safety issues. That’s a good thing for everyone.
• Celebrate diversity. Oxnard has a rich cultural history, a beach, a historic civic center, an emerging “new core” at RiverPark and Wagon Wheel and even an airport. It is one of the few places in the Tri-Counties that provides affordable middle-class housing and a pro-business attitude. These are important attributes that can become mutually reinforcing if management gets it right.
• Don’t forget who pays the bills. Ultimately, Oxnard’s bills are paid by taxpayers and especially its business community. Providing better infrastructure and quicker turnarounds for planning and shedding the image that the city is run for a few insiders is important to securing Oxnard’s future.