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Some fault Council for lack of transparency on selection process

East County News Service

July 2, 2016 (La Mesa) -- The La Mesa City Council has appointed Yvonne Garrett as the new City Manager, replacing Dave Witt, who is retiring on August 5 after 31 years with the Planning Department.  Garrett has served as Assistant City Manager Director of City Services for a decade. 

Mayor Mark Arapostathis praised the decision, stating, “Mrs. Garrett is the most qualified person in the region.” As Assistant City Manager and Director of Community Services she acquired a unique skill set that will be beneficial in her service to our City. We all congratulate Yvonne Garrett.”

Garrett thanked the Council for “their confidence in me” adding, “I am excited to continue working for a wonderful community, La Mesa is truly everyone’s image of their own hometown.”

Besides serving as Assistant City Manager/Director of Community Services for La Mesa since 2010, Garrett has also been Director of the La Mesa Park and Recreation Foundation, a private non-profit that raises funds for park improvements and facilitates recreational, education and cultural programs. She has worked for the City for 16 years. Prior to working for the City of La Mesa she was the Executive Director of the Alpine Community Center for 13 years.

According to a city press release, as Assistant City Manager, she handled special projects for the City including developing a Health and Wellness Element for the General Plan, and completion of the Parks Master Plan. She provided staff support to the City’s Centennial celebration in 2012.  Garrett also oversaw the La Mesa Community Center complex including the Adult Enrichment Center, municipal pool, and recreational classes.

Garrett completed several major capital projects including the award winning PARKS Project, the La Mesa Teen Center and has been instrumental in promoting walkability in the City of La Mesa. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and English from Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, PA, and a Masters of Public Administration degree from Ashford University, Clinton Iowa.

Mayor Arapostathis offered retiring City Manager Dave Witt thanks and congratulations for his years of service on behalf of the city. “Mr. Witt has always represented the City of La Mesa with integrity and character. Through his leadership and vision numerous projects were completed that improved and modernized our streets and neighborhoods, while still maintaining the charm that has come to define La Mesa. Dave Witt will be succeeded but never replaced,” the Mayor concluded.

Witt was hired as Assistant Planning Director in 1985.  Many of his years with La Mesa were involved with planning and redevelopment activities. Prior to his last position as City Manager, Mr. Witt served several years as the Assistant City Manager and Community Development Director.

Some successful projects Witt recalls as significant contributions to the City’s development in this capacity were the public/private partnerships that helped with the transformation of the Fletcher Parkway Corridor. He was also instrumental in implementing several major park projects and revitalization of the City’s Civic Center facilities. A recent project he was glad to see completed as a longtime goal was the first phase of the Downtown Village Streetscape Improvements.

Witt has stated that he “has enjoyed the professional responsibility given to me by the City Council in taking the lead on numerous challenging projects that have helped the community develop and grow in a lasting and positive way.”

He noted that he is leaving the organization with a very professional and committed staff, as well as a solid fiscal foundation. The City’s infrastructure is well maintained and systems are well established to support many different options for a bright future for the City. While there will always be high demands placed on the City by a community that expects and deserves the best in a town which is loved by many, he concluded, he believes the organization is well positioned to continue to deliver top level public services and meet the community’s expectations in the years ahead.

 “I truly appreciate all the opportunities La Mesa has given to me to grow professionally as an urban planner and City Manager,” Witt concluded. “To develop the plans that reflect community goals and then to find the resources needed to see the projects getting built as imagined has been tremendously rewarding.”

But some have questioned the transparency of the decision.

The La Mesa Citizens Oversight Group, in a comment posted on La Mesa Today, stated, “The City Council dropped this surprise on the public at the council meeting.” While not finding fault with Garrett individually, the group asked if the Council had put out an announcement to encourage qualified candidates as it has in the past, or interviewed anyone else. “Why was the public not afforded the opportunity to address the council regarding what qualities they believed are important?” asked the group, who gave the Council a “Poor” rating on transparency for its action.

The action comes shortly after the Council voted to discontinue the Building Codes Review Board and to combine the Commission on Ageing and Veterans with Human Relations Commission. While the oversight group praised those actions, a La Mesa resident e-mailed ECM questioning whether adequate notice and input were provided prior to those decisions as well.


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