The City’s of Arvin’s search since June is almost over.
Four candidates remain of 35, for their new city manager: Peter Consentini from Huntington Beach, Ricardo Noguera from Cape Coral Florida, Donovan Olsen from Ames, Iowa and the current interim City Manager, Jeff Jones.
Three of them were present to meet with community members Sunday night at Arvin's Veterans Hall (Arvin’s Mayor Olivia Trujillo said it was because of the distance that Olsen couldn’t make the event), before final interviews and determinations before city council and panels of community leaders over the next couple days.
“The biggest involvement is transparency,” Mayor Trujillo said. “In the past, we haven’t had this process, where the community can talk to the candidates and see, ‘who are they? What do they want to create in Arvin?’”
This all comes after the former city manager, Richard Breckinridge vacated his seat this summer, not before sending a letter to the EDD, alleging that mayor Trujillo committed unemployment insurance fraud, the mayor telling us that the city’s internal investigation on the matter is now closed.
“Pandemic unemployment assistance was being offered to everyone across the United States, and that’s what I was being offered,” Trujillo said. “Unfortunately because there was a mix-up in the staff administration as far as the way the money was being reported: as stipend, it was reported as wages, but that’s all been cleared.”
Trujillo added that Breckinridge's exit and the investigation were unrelated. The mayor told 23ABC he had already been looking for another job. To replace him, the city brought in a local government consulting and executive firm, Municipal Solutions. Their services, city officials previously stated would cost the city $20,000.
“One of them asked me, is it possible for the next city manager to give us an update once a month?' And I said, 'sure that’s what should happen with a professional manager,” the firm’s principal and CEO, David Evertsen said he heard from council members. “Another said, 'we just want to do the best we can. Do you think the next city manager will help us be the best elected officials?’”
Evertsen said they created an extensive profile on the City of Arvin before recruiting, then screening the candidates. The firms looked at three determining factors: qualifications, fit, and a compelling reason candidates want to be in Arvin.
“As the finance director since 2017, I’ve known a lot about the city, I know how the funds work, where the money is, [and] I know what the people need,” Jones said.
“I have worked in the Central Valley before,” Noguera said. "At this stage in my career, I'm really looking for a community I can embrace and help lift up. I have focused on revitalizing communities for 32 years!”
“I have deep experience in growth management,” Consentini said. “I know how to grow a city very well. I know all the planning documents and the legal mechanisms to do that well. I think I can bring that to Arvin.”