Wilbrecht hired as new Town Manager
The Town of Mammoth Lakes always complains that it doesn’t get enough of its property tax money back from the County.
On Tuesday, Robin Hood paid a visit to the Eastern Sierra and returned at least one asset from the County back to the Town when it was announced that Mammoth’s Town Council had chosen Mono County Chief Administrative Officer Dave Wilbrecht as its next permanent Town Manager.
Indications early that day were that he’d been offered the job; by late morning, Mayor Skip Harvey told The Sheet it was a done deal. Wilbrecht confirmed the report as true at 11:30 a.m., and by noon, the Town formally announced Wilbrecht’s selection.
He succeeds former Town Manager Rob Clark, who recently took a similar post in Ojai, and relieves Interim Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez, who came to fill in until Mammoth’s Town Council made its decision on a permanent hire.
Wilbrecht, who has acted as CAO for many years with Mono County, had recently been up for a contract renewal in December 2010. He previously served in Mammoth Town government for several years in what was then the Parks and Recreation Department, prior to joining the County’s Administrative office in 2003.
Mono County Board of Supervisors Chairman Hap Hazard, in a statement from the County and on behalf of the Board, praised Wilbrecht’s performance and some of his achievements. “He led the way through the passage of Measures A & B a few years back. With this change of the Auditor and County Clerk from elected positions to appointed positions, the performance and the responsiveness of those two offices to the county staff and to the citizens have been remarkable,” Hazard stated. “[Wilbrecht] has had many other successes as Mono County CAO and our communities are better off for his efforts.”
Wilbrecht said he didn’t seek the Manager’s position, but was actively solicited by the Council. Councilmember Matthew Lehman indicated he’s very optimistic about having Wilbrecht with the Town. Lehman pointed to Wilbrecht’s directness during the interview process and his long-time devotion to Mammoth and Eastern Sierra’s culture among his other attributes as reasons he thinks Wilbrecht will prove a good fit for the Manager’s chair.
Council in general was lot upbeat about his selection. “A lot of the questions we would have had to answer with a new person have already been answered,” Councilman John Eastman observed. When asked if he was pleased with the decision to go with Wilbrecht, Councilman Matthew Lehman definitively answered, “Yes … absolutely.” “He’s the right guy at the right time,” Councilman Rick Wood enthused.
Hazard pointed out that CAO’s usually last 3-5 years in that position. “Dave’s been with us 8, which has blessed us with having him longer than usual,” he said. “We’ve always known we could lose him at some point, and he’s been doing a phenomenal job … It’s a loss to the county, but also a loss of a great colleague and friend. Good CAOs with his personality, experience and drive are hard to get and harder to hang onto!”
The County’s next move, he said, will be to pull in an interim CAO while searching for someone permanent. Complicating the process are ongoing employee negotiations and a budget that’s up in the air, with looming federal and state budget uncertainty. The move, Hazard said, is no doubt good for Wilbrecht and the Town, but it does come at a challenging time for the County. “I am, however, positive there are talented CAOs out there,” Hazard said, adding that recruiting and getting one up to speed would likely not be quick, let alone easy.
“I think it’s great. It comes at a good time for the Town. He has a terrific building opportunity,” commented Supervisor Byng Hunt.
Wilbrecht said he found out the Town was interested in him not long after it was revealed that Clark was leaving. “I was surprised, and of course complimented,” Wilbrecht recalled. “There are lots of problems, but also lots of possibilities. I’m really looking forward to working with the community. Mammoth has so many positives … the Ski Area has had a good year, Transient Occupancy Tax has been strong, as has visitation. Then there are the arts programs, measures U and R, Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access. I look forward to working with all the people who serve and volunteer on all the service organizations.”
The change, he said, has a lot to do with scale. “With the County, I serve a lot of communities, and I saw this partly as a chance to shrink my geography and work with one community.”
In terms of challenges, he thinks it’s possible that at least a couple of major ones may be resolved or at least well in hand by the time he gets there. “The [airport] lawsuit might be settled and the budget should be on its feet,” Wilbrecht forecast. One of his first priorities will be to evaluate staffing and address some key vacancies, such as the Finance Director position. He’ll also have lots of other things to keep him busy, such as learning the finances, and interfacing with the various commissions and Town Council, as well as the school, fire and water districts, and the police department.
“I’ll have six or so departments instead of 20, so the range of focus will be narrower, but deeper,” he posited.
Wilbrecht said he’ll miss the “dedicated” County staff and the Board, but is confident he’s left a good template and standard for what the CAO office should be. “I had really great support. The Board, the staff … they wanted me to succeed.”
Clark’s style has been described as non-confrontational and behind closed doors. Expect Wilbrecht’s style to be very different. “The business of government is messy. You’re dealing with peoples’ lives, their security, homes … their futures. I have to professionally and with integrity stand up and clearly articulate my position, even if people disagree.”
According to a statement from the Town, Interim Manager Marysheva-Martinez will stay on until her contract ends on June 30, to assist Wilbrecht’s transition. Town Council is expected to approve Wilbrecht’s employment agreement during its April 20 regular meeting. His first day on the job is scheduled to be Wednesday, June 1.