Turlock’s city manager carousel finally — and hopefully — came to a halt Tuesday night as the City Council appointed former Stanislaus County CEO Reagan Wilson to the position in a split vote.
It’s been over a year since former city manager Toby Wells was first put on investigative leave by the Council in January 2021; his contract was subsequently terminated and interim managers Gary Hampton, Dan Madden and Sarah Eddy have served on a temporary basis since. Over the last five years, six individuals have served as Turlock’s city manager.
Mayor Amy Bublak, Vice Mayor Pam Franco and Council member Rebecka Monez all voted to appoint Wilson to the position Tuesday, with Council members Andrew Nosrati and Nicole Larson dissenting. Eddy told the Council that Wilson was the leading candidate in the search for a new city manager, which first began last June.
“Reagan led a successful turnaround of County government, working with his elected board in hiring and mentoring new employees,” Eddy said. “He became well-known for choosing and developing staff members who became excellent leaders in their own right.”
Wilson will begin his new job Wednesday under a five-year employment agreement which includes a $197,640 annual salary. Should Wilson be terminated without cause, the City will not have to provide severance pay. Following his termination in 2021, the City paid Wells a lump sum of $55,000 in addition to his wages, any accrued and unused leave payments, and health and dental insurance for himself and his spouse, according to the settlement agreement.
Eddy and several others defended Wilson during the meeting, whose former employment as County CEO and ultimate resignation was addressed by The Modesto Bee this week.
Wilson served as CEO from 1993 until he resigned in 2003 after hiding private business ties to a consultant; the Bee reported in 2003 that Wilson also used his County credit card for invalid purchases, including an investigation which found he once paid for a massage at a hotel using the government credit card.
Eddy said the Council was well aware of Wilson’s past throughout the selection process and was offering him the chance to serve the public again after 19 years.
“...Reagan was quite forthright about his error surrounding his departure from the county,” Eddy said. “On a personal note, I have gotten to know Reagan and his wife Sherry a bit in the past weeks. I must say I’m excited about the future of our city government.”
Wilson thanked the Council for their confidence in him and said he felt “privileged” to be appointed.
“...I plan to do the very best job I can each and every day working on behalf of the City and its residents,” Wilson said.
Turlock resident Mike Lynch worked for former Congressman Gary Condit while Wilson worked for the County, he said, and got to know the CEO very well. He described Wilson as “a man who could move the ball forward” and that his reputation for factual, quick responses preceded him.
“He was really the classic example of what you want in a county manager and frankly, I think as a Turlock resident, he’s perfect for Turlock right now,” Lynch told the Council. “...Wilson knows how to deal with the County, with the other cities and with other levels of government…He will be an enormous asset to not only you, Mayor, and the Council, but also the City of Turlock.”
Turlock Planning Commissioner Ray Souza told the Council Wilson will “get things done.”
“We have challenges behind us and we still have some great deal of challenges ahead of us. I think he’s the most qualified person to hit the ground running,” Souza said.
Nosrati, who did not vote to approve Wilson, said the former CEO’s history made it hard to support the decision and that he had been cautioned against it.
“I really wish we had the perfect candidate, Mr. Wilson…I’m looking forward to working with you and giving you a clean slate and giving you the opportunity to do what you’ve been chosen to do by the majority,” Nosrati said. “It’s a really unfortunate fact that we’re here in the first place and we could have not lost all year had we acted a little bit more cautiously and more responsibly.”
Larson added that she, too, was disappointed in the Council’s handling of the position over the last year and believed past actions by the Council resulted in a smaller candidate pool.
“We’re a team and I’m not happy with the situation that we’re in,” she said. “I think we could do better. I think our city as a whole has deserved better over the last year.”