RIO VISTA — New City Manager Tim Chapa pointed happily to a welcome sign on his office door at City Hall.
The welcome was signed by many who will work closely with him as he sets his course as the city’s first permanent city manager since April 2012, when Hector De La Rosa’s contract was not renewed.
Councilman Jim McCracken, laughing, said a new permanent city manager was on the “Christmas wish list” for a long time.
Chapa didn’t waste any time getting to work, meeting briefly with staff and the City Council his first day, Tuesday, and outlining four key areas of focus: stability, accountability, customer services and transparency.
Stability is for both the city, which has been under the care of multiple interim city managers for 18 months, and for his family, which includes school-age children.
Accountability includes raising the performance bar. In addressing the issue of customer service, Chapa called his position as city manager more than just an administrator to the staff and related it to public relations and marketing.
“We work for the citizens at the start of the day and at the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves what we’ve done to benefit (them),” he said.
Transparency has long been a divisive issue for the city, with some citizens’ groups charging city staff with their lack of transparency. Chapa said citizens have a right to know what the city is doing and how it’s being done. Chapa’s example involved the ability to access information concerning Measure O, a 0.75 percent sales tax initiative passed in November 2012. He said a citizen should be able to find out how much money came in and what it’s been spent on and right now the answer would not be readily available with the money’s assimilation into the general fund.
“We need to be able to answer that questions,” Chapa said.
McCracken likened the city government’s transparency problem to the old adage, “Time heals all wounds.”
“It’s going to take a while,” he said. “It’s not going to be something that is an immediate change or development. I think that’s what’s going to happen. He seems to have a very positive attitude about accomplishing all these things.”
Mayor Norman Richardson also talked of Chapa’s desire for transparency. He said after the governmental upheaval in the city of Bell, transparency is a necessity.
Chapa is the former city manager for the city of Arvin, a city of nearly 20,000 people in Kern County. He became aware of Rio Vista when he applied for the position of public works director three years ago. That position eventually went to Dave Melilli, who worked for the city prior, but at the time he thought he could bring an air of truthfulness to a city embroiled in a sort “water war” involving a hike in water and sewer rates, which eventually was put to a public vote.
“Part of what I like to do is provide factual information,” Chapa said. “It’s better to just give them the news, good or bad. I felt that is one of my strengths. I really felt I could help the city at the time with what they were going through.”
He said that “straightforward, factual information was needed at that time.”
“Nothing has changed in three years. That’s still my perspective.”
McCracken said he thinks Chapa has moxy and also has the charisma to have people want to be around and work with him.
“I think he’s going to bring it all to the table for us,” McCracken said.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.