Haydon to replace Ness as SM city manager

Rick Haydon, selected by the City Council to replace Tim Ness as Santa Maria city manager, stands Wednesday in the council chamber. 

For Rick Haydon, the move to becoming Santa Maria’s new city manager isn’t a big one — it’s just down the hall to the right.

The 49-year-old Haydon, assistant city manager for the past 11 years, was chosen by the Santa Maria City Council this week to replace Tim Ness as Santa Maria’s top administrator when Ness retires Dec. 30.

Ness, whose retirement was announced Tuesday, has been the city’s top administrator since 1995, and prior to that served as deputy city manager.

Ness is among several city officials to announce recently that they are leaving. Larry Lavagnino said  Oct. 3 he wouldn’t seek another term as mayor in the 2012 election; Fire Chief Jeff Jones last week announced he would be retiring Dec. 19; and Chief Deputy City Clerk Pat Perez will be stepping down Dec. 16.

All this means that when Santa Maria administrative staff returns from its New Year’s break, Haydon will have a new office.

“When you work so closely with somebody for so many years, you have an inclination of things that are about to transpire. I know Tim has been looking at the possibility to retire for quite some time; he just didn’t have a time set,” said Haydon who has worked with Ness for the past 15 years.

“He saw the mayor (Larry Lavagnino) was not going to be running for re-election, and there are a number of other people who are retiring. He was looking for a smooth transition and a continuity of government, and that’s a good thing for me.”

Ness’s retirement was informally announced at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. The council made the decision to select Haydon in closed session later that night.

“He’s ready for that step. He’s been in Santa Maria for a long time. He’s always been a real hard worker. He’d just a superior candidate. I don’t think if we went out and even went nationwide we would have found a better candidate than Rick,” said Lavagnino, who added the council was unanimous in its decision to appoint Haydon to the job.

“He knows Santa Maria. He knows the situation we’re in and he knows what we have to deal with. There’s no learning curve. He hits the ground full bore.”

Ness agreed with the mayor.

“Rick is the model public administrator. He exemplifies the highest ideals of public service, starting with integrity. He calmly handles every demanding task with reasoned judgment, and is an outstanding problem-solver. He’s ready, having worked for the city for over 15 years,” Ness said. “He’s got a strong work ethic, he’s hands-on and a great team builder and consistently makes the correct decisions."

Haydon earned a bachelor’s degree at Fresno State University and a master’s in public administration at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He has worked as a management analyst in Fresno and a financial analyst in the San Joaquin Valley town of Dinuba, where he also served as the budget and employee-relations manager, a job he currently handles in Santa Maria.

Haydon also worked as a grants administrator and special projects manager for the Monterey-Salinas Transit District, and later served as business manager for the Monterey Police Department.

He came to Santa Maria in 1996, when he was hired as assistant to the city manager and was promoted to his current position four years later.

Haydon will inherit a city that has faced four straight years of declining revenues and increasing expenses because of state budget cutbacks. As the man who delivers the city’s budget report to the City Council each year, he’s well aware of its financial condition.

“We’ve had some financial challenges, and we’re not out of the woods yet. Like every city we’ll be trying to balance our budget over the next couple of years with decreasing revenues,” he said.

Haydon will be just the third city manager in Santa Maria in the past 23 years. Wayne Schwammel served from 1989 to 1994. Ness took over in 1995, and Haydon will move into the office on New Year’s Eve.

“City manager of the city of Santa Maria is a very prestigious position to have. We’re the largest city in the bi-county area. We run an efficient city. I’m very proud to say I work for the city of Santa Maria. We have a very good reputation throughout the state,” Haydon said.

“I truly appreciate the support of the City Council, and look forward to the challenges in the years ahead.”

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