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Ceres’ ousted city manager finds new role in Manteca
Wells Toby
Toby Wells, who left Ceres as city manager in March 2020 for Turlock, may be out of a job.

Toby Wells is next in line to become Manteca’s city manager.

The City Council on Tuesday is expected to approve a three-year $230,000 annual contract with Wells that was hammered out in previous closed sessions.

Wells has served seven years as a city manager. Six of those years were in Ceres. He was hired in March 2020 as Turlock’s city manager. Eight months later after a new council was elected, friction developed between Wells and three council members prompting him to be placed on paid administrative leave. In May of 2021 the Turlock City Council approved a settlement agreement with Wells.

Wells was Turlock’s sixth city manager that was either permanent or interim since 2015 when he was hired in 2020.

When he starts on Sept. 16, Wells will become Manteca’s sixth city manager since 2015 as well between those that were permanent or interim. The list includes Karen McLaughlin, Tim Ogden, Elena Reyes, Miranda Lutzow and Michael Harden.

In 2005 a study published in the State and Local Government Review based on a survey of 120 selected cities placed the average tenure of a city manager at 6.8 years. That dropped to 3 to 5 years by 2015 based on several surveys.

Wells contract is for three years. He will earn $230,000 annually.

Turlock Councilman Andrew Nosrati opposed Wells’ ouster, saying “I have nothing but great things to say for Toby Wells, and he carried the city through an incredibly difficult period with an impending financial crisis and a pandemic. Unfortunately, he was a victim of Turlock politics, as usual, and it’s a shame that the taxpayers have to pay what will amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars because we have elected officials who can’t treat the office with the respect it deserves.” 

The contract calls for a sick leave bank of 40 hours effective his first day of employment as well as a vacation bank of 40 hours.

Wells will be paid a 4 percent deferred compensation contribution by the city paid on a monthly basis.

The city manager will receive a $300 a month car stipend.

Unlike in the past when city managers were awarded $120 a month for cell phone allowance, Wells will be provided a city-issued laptop, cellphone and iPad that he was surrender when he leaves Manteca’s employment.

If he is terminated for any reason other than cause, he will receive any accrued administrative leave and vacation as well as a lump sum of six months of severance pay that based on the contract and his initial salary would be $115,000.

Since leaving Turlock, Wells has been working as an engineer with the City of Modesto.

Wells grew up in Hilmar, attended Modesto Junior College and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Fresno State University and is a licensed registered civil engineer. 

He was an associate civil engineer for the city of Turlock from 1998 to 2000. Wells then became Ceres City Engineer in July 2011 and also served as public works director. Well was named city manager of Ceres in March 2014 and during his six-year tenure was instrumental in the makeover of downtown Ceres. 

Wells and his family are long-time Turlock residents.