Augusta’s new city manager has arrived. Gabe Gonzalez will attend his first City Council meeting Monday night and is ready to get started.
“I’ve been catching up and getting the background on issues. I’m very impressed with Josh Shaw and what he’s accomplished. He’s outstanding and has handled some major issues,” Gonzalez said concerning the city’s interim manager.
The Augusta City Council selected Gonzalez among a pool of 45 applicants for the position following the resignation of former City Manager Bill Keefer. The new manager left the same position in Rohnert Park, Calif., a community of approximately 42,000 people.
Although the new job comes with a pay cut for Gonzalez, the major perk is being close to his daughter, Alyssa, who is expecting his first grandchild in January.
“I’m thrilled to be closer to my daughter - and my new grandson,” he said. “Some things are lot more important than money.”
He describes arriving at his previous position three years ago as “a runaway train with lots of turmoil and a city on the brink of bankruptcy.” He helped develop and implement a 10-year recovery plan and proposed extension of a sales tax hike to maintain city services and reduce the city’s $1.4 million deficit.
“I will do my job to the best of my ability and help build the community. I will bring sound recommendations to the council, but always will put the community first. That’s my track record,” he added. “I have a passion for it. I love what I do.”
Gonzalez is the youngest of 12 children. His parents migrated from Mexico to California in the 1950s. His mother is deceased and his 85-year-old father lives in California. Nine of his siblings are living and several are scattered across the country.
His accounting and financial training began in the Air Force and his first job out of the military was working for a small south Central Valley town in the customer service area. With his strong financial background and training he soon became the city’s financial director.
He explained, “I was approximately 27 years old and focused. The city manager took me under his wing and became my mentor. He taught me a lot. I took my first city manager job at 34.”
Adjusting to the cooler weather may prove to be difficult at times for the California native. A space heater is humming in his new office.
“I’m adjusting to the cold. I really do like it here. Everyone has been nice and helpful. I joined the team that was already here. I believe in coach management. I treat everyone professionally and want to help everyone be successful,” he continued. “Every community deserves a strong infrastructure and a strong financial position. We’ve been entrusted to make the best decisions.”
Page 2 of 2 - Gonzalez wants to be involved in Augusta and welcomes invitations to meet with groups and organizations. He is already scheduled to address the local Lions Club.
“I work for the community. Being accessible is part of my job and I want to hear the citizens’ concerns.”
A public reception for new City Manager Gonzalez will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Dec. 2, prior to that night’s city council meeting.
Belinda Larsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.