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Council to vote on City Manager appointment
city manager robert lawton
Robert C. Lawton

After 10 months and two rounds of recruitment, the City of Turlock may finally get its next City Manager, as the City Council is expected on Tuesday to consider appointing Robert C. Lawton to the head administrative position with a base salary of over $215K.

Lawton was identified as the leading candidate following a national executive recruitment process with the firm Peckham and McKenney that saw 25 candidates vying for the position.

Lawton has almost 20 years of experience in local government, including serving as County Administrator in neighboring Calaveras County during the Great Recession.

He is currently the County Administrator for Yates County in New York. Lawton previously served as Assistant County Administrator of Sonoma County, County Manager of Luzerne, Pennsylvania, Deputy County Administrator of Solano County and County Administrator of Marinette, Wisconsin.

He has a Master of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Iowa and a Bachelor of Arts degree from State University of New York. Lawton also completed the University of California’s Berkeley Executive Seminar, the University of Virginia’s Senior Executive Institute and the California State Association of Counties’ Credentialed County Senior Executive program.

If approved, Lawton’s employment agreement would be a three-year term starting no later than July 12 with a base salary of $215,748. He would also receive a $400 a month automobile allowance and relocation and moving expenses up to $20,000.

The City has been without a City Manager since Gary Hampton resigned in July 2017.

The original recruitment process started in April 2017, when Hampton announced he would be leaving the City of Turlock in August. Hampton ended up leaving one month earlier, with his last day mid-July. The City once again contracted recruitment firm Robert Neher & Associates — the same firm used following former City Manager Roy Wasden’s retirement in December 2015 — to find qualified candidates.

Those candidates were then interviewed and ranked by members of three panels of community members and a panel of City executive staff.

The City Council appointed former mayor Curt Andre to chair the community panels — recommended by Mayor Gary Soiseth — and help facilitate the recruitment and selection process.

According to Andre, there were a total of 22 candidates, which were narrowed down to eight by the recruitment firm and then the top four were interviewed by the panels.  The community panels then passed on their recommendations to the City Council. Andre said each of the panels had different top candidates.

The City has not given a reason for the recruitment process redo.

Turlock Fire Chief Robert Talloni has been serving as Interim City Manager since Hampton left. In his absence, the Turlock Fire Department has been led by Operations Chief Gary Carlson.