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Arroyo Grande will have a new city manager and attorney

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For the first time since Nov. 19, 2014, Arroyo Grande will have a permanent city manager.

At the Arroyo Grande City Council’s April 28 meeting, the council unanimously voted to appoint Dianne Thompson as the new city manager.

Thompson—who previously served as city manager for Cotati (in Sonoma County) from 2007 to 2014 and city architect for Santa Rosa for 12 years—was the pick among six finalists the council interviewed for the position on March 27 and 28.

“I’m really excited to get her on board,” City Councilmember Kristen Barneich told New Times. “She’s extremely sharp, she seems very passionate and engaged, and she was just the best fit for A.G.”

Arroyo Grande will be paying a premium for its preferred candidate. Thompson’s base salary is set at $179,000 per year, and an April 28 city staff report estimates that Thompson’s annual compensation will total approximately $229,600.

Other provisions of Thompson’s employment agreement include a monthly cell phone allowance, a city-provided “notepad style” and “desktop” computer, 33 paid vacation days per year, $2,200 in deferred compensation per year, a full pension, $10,000 on a “reimbursement basis” for moving costs, $1,700 per month for up to four months as a “temporary housing allowance,” health insurance, and a $150,000 life insurance policy.

“A.G. has pretty high standards, and that’s what we felt we needed to pay in order to attract quality applicants,” Barneich said.

Thompson’s appointment puts an official end to the months-long saga that followed a much-debated July 3, 2014, incident in which former City Manager Steve Adams was found alone with a subordinate employee at Arroyo Grande City Hall late at night.

Adams announced his plans to step down from his position on Oct. 2, 2014, and the council accepted his (disputed) resignation, placing Adams on administrative leave on Nov. 19. Adams stayed there until the council appointed Interim City Manager Bob McFall on Jan. 13, and lastly, the council agreed to grant Adams $71,073 in severance pay on Jan. 27.

Thompson is currently serving as the interim town manager for Ross in Marin County, and will likely assume her post in Arroyo Grande on Aug. 3, with the potential to start earlier.

Also at the April 28 council meeting, longtime City Attorney Tim Carmel announced that Heather Whitham—the current deputy city attorney and a partner at Carmel & Naccasha LLP, the city’s contracted law firm—will be taking over his city attorney position as of May 1.

“This plan will provide a positive change and will serve the city well,” Carmel wrote in an April 28 staff report. “Ms. Whitham is very familiar with city staff and operations and is ready to seamlessly assume the city attorney position.”

Carmel, who has served as city attorney for the past 19 years, wrote that he would “continue to provide limited legal counsel” for the city on issues related to water and land use.

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