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Citys legal eagle of 44 years to retire
Michael Mike Lyions has been looking after the legal affairs of the city of Ceres since the 1970s. He is stepping down at age 71 on Dec. 10. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

The year 2014 has been a big year of transitions at City Hall.

As the year draws to a close, another key figure is leaving: City Attorney Mike Lyions.

Lyions' last day will be Dec. 10 with the City Council needing to find someone to fill his shoes.

"I don't have any recommendations," said Lyions. "I think the city manager is submitting some requests for proposals by some firms that would be willing to provide the services on a contract basis. I think the idea is that we would go for the initial contract for a shorter period of time, maybe six to nine months, and see how that works out."

Lyions has spent four days per week at City Hall and said it probably isn't practical to have an outside firm to be present that many hours per week "as I have been

Mayor Chris Vierra said the city has long enjoyed Lyions' professional services at truly affordable rates.

"I feel bad for the salary we've been paying Mike," said the mayor. "Mike did an admirable job for paying some less than $80 an hour for legal services that are probably going to cost the city two or three times that amount to replace him."

"It worked for me," said Lyions. "It's hard to find somebody out there in my peculiar circumstances where I could be down here and be a contract employee. They are not required to pay benefits for me. I simply get paid on an hourly basis for the hours that I spend at a considerably reduced rate from what a typical attorney's firm would charge. I wasn't looking to get some $150 to $250 hourly rate. I think it's worked well for the city for the time that I've there and quite frankly it's worked well for me."

Lyions abandoned his private practice in 2002 to solely devote his time to being city attorney.

Lyions said he started with the city of Ceres when he was 27 while working for the city attorney Ernie Rushing. He is now 71. Rushing had secured the city contract from Myron Moyle when he retired. Lyions started out just standing by at Planning Commission meetings and substituting for Rushing at council meetings. He later became deputy city attorney and by de facto started covering all the meetings, working with mayors Brian Carlin, Gary Condit, Sal Cannella, Jim Delhart, Louie Arrollo, Richard McBride, Barbara Hinton, Leo Havener, Eric Ingwerson, Delinda Moore, Anthony Cannella and Chris Vierra.

"I'm going to retire and start doing some of the things I want to do," said Lyions, who doesn't rule out helping in law matters on an as-needed basis. "I have hobbies."

Personnel transitions this year included the departure of Art deWerk who started out the year as acting city manager and then solely as police chief. Toby Wells was made city manager while Lt. Brent Smith was assigned as acting police chief. Finance Director Sheila Cumberland also retired.