Fred Stouder is another first in a year of firsts for the city of Goleta.
Stouder, whom the Goleta City Council appointed as its first city manager, took office on Aug. 12. Stouder has many jobs, such as hiring other city directors, implementing the will of the city council and ensuring that street sweepers run on schedule. His biggest task is to nurse Goleta through its tender years and into existence as a fully functional model of local government. For his first two months on the job, Stouder has been doing all of these jobs single-handedly.
“It’s a great opportunity and a wonderful experience,” said Stouder, upon beginning his second month as city manager. “There’s only one permanent city employee right now, and that’s me. In a city like Goleta, you’ve got business that walks in the door everyday … calls, letters, e-mails and the citizens that expect the obligations you are legally expected to carry out. We’re trying to create systems that the city can rely on for day-to-day services.”
The very issues that drove Goleta residents to vote for cityhood are for the first time ones the city itself can address, according to Stouder.
“There are major issues we have to deal with,” he said. “There’s development pressures, housing needs, street maintenance concerns and a lot more. I’m trying to sort through issues that some people think have gone unaddressed for years. The first few months, we’re going to be getting our arms around these issues and getting to understand the city.”
Stouder, who previously served as city manager in Petaluma, Calif., said although he was hesitant to choose one issue as a goal, his present task is making the city functional on the most basic levels, a task which can only further familiarize him with the feel of Goleta.
“It’s all of the categories, really,” he said, referring to the multitude of issues on which the city’s fate rests. “There’s land use issues we need to address, and then there’s the general plan. But still, from an organizational standpoint, just identifying levels of service for day-to-day operations is important. [I’m] trying to establish means to give service that are really needed.”
The formation of Goleta’s first general plan is also a pressing issue that will be addressed as small but necessary adjustments are finalized, Stouder said.
“I need the first year for identifying options for the council to make some good choices. We need to establish the criteria for a good general plan and remain true to the spirit of it.”
Hiring other city staff is another responsibility that Stouder has recognized as a priority. In October, Ken Curtis will become the second ever employee of the city of Goleta when he becomes the director of planning. Curtis previously held the same position in Half Moon Bay, Calif. Stouder also is looking into hiring the city’s first environmental services director, community services director, public works director and administrative director, the last of which would oversee the city’s finances and personnel.
Goleta City Councilman Jack Hawxhurst said he appreciates Stouder’s presence in the city.
“I think he’s going to be wonderful,” Hawxhurst said. “He jumped right in with rolled-up sleeves, and he seems like the kind of guy who’s really going to do a good job. We’re very happy he’s here.”
Hawxhurst also said Stouder’s plans will mesh well with the expectations of the city council.
“His big plans are our big plans,” he said.
Most city managers in California serve for five or six years. Stouder said he is determined to stay on as long as he can help the city.
“I have a three-year contract and a three-year renewable clause,” he said. “But to really have an impact at creating organization, you need to be there three to five years, and even longer if it’s desirable. I could be here for 100 years.”: