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Turlock City Manager announces resignation
city manager robert lawton
Robert C. Lawton

Turlock City Manager Bob Lawton announced Monday that he is resigning from his position he has held for just over one year to pursue new opportunities.

Lawton’s tenure in Turlock saw the city undertake some drastic spending cuts to reach a balanced budget.

In his resignation letter, Lawton stated, “Together we have illuminated Turlock’s fiscal challenges, prepared and adopted a structurally balanced budget and taken up the task of charting a path for progress. It is with these successes in mind that I look to my own future, and new opportunities that lie ahead. Therefore, I hereby submit my letter of resignation for the position of City Manager, effective August 27, 2019.”

Lawton turned in his resignation letter following a closed session meeting of the City Council on Monday.

 “As Mayor of the City of Turlock, and on behalf of my Council colleagues, I want to thank City Manager Bob Lawton for preparing and adopting a structurally-balanced budget which positions us to regain our citizens trust concerning the way we spend their hard-earned tax dollars,” said Mayor Amy Bublak. “We wish Bob and Francine all the best in their future endeavors.”

Lawton began working as the city manager in July 2018 and came into the position with 20 years of experience in local government, including serving as County Administrator in neighboring Calaveras County during the Great Recession. Previous to Turlock, he held the position of 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.

When Lawton was hired by the City of Turlock, he agreed to a three-year contract 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. During the recent round of budget cuts, Lawton opted to forgo the auto allowance and travel budget.

The effort to fill the city manager position began in April 2017, when then city manager Gary Hampton announced his departure from the city. The City contracted recruitment firm Robert Neher & Associates 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.

Under Lawton’s tenure, the Turlock City Council adopted a budget that included significant cuts in spending and services offered by the City. The budget defunds 16 vacant positions and curtails overtime spending in all departments, but most notably within public safety. Many customer service offices at City departments now have limited hours due to staffing cuts. Parks and Recreation, Planning and Police Records offices are now only open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

On Tuesday, the City Council appointed Michael Cooke as interim city manager. Cooke is the City of Turlock's Municipal Services Director. This is the second time that he has served as interim city manager. Cooke took the helm of city administration in December 2015, when then-city manager Roy Wasden retired until Gary Hampton was appointed to the position in April 2016.