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Wells acting city manager following deWerks reassignment
Toby Wells is the new acting city manager following the removal of Art deWerk in that role. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier file photo

Art deWerk has been serving double-duty as acting city manager and public safety director for three years. But during a daylong special City Council meeting held Friday, deWerk was stripped of his city management command.

DeWerk will still remain in charge of the Public Safety Department, overseeing both police and fire divisions. The change came the very day of the retirement of Deputy Police Chief Mike Borges. DeWerk leaned heavily on Borges to run the Ceres Police Department during his tenure as acting city manager.

Toby Wells, who was the deputy city manager as well as city engineer, was appointed to fill his place until a permanent city manager can be appointed.

The winds of change were hinted at during the Monday, March 10 meeting of the Ceres City Council when deWerk announced he was "giving a lot of thought to the fact that I've been in this acting city manager position which ... was supposed to be a six-month or one-year assignment. It's been three and a half years."

DeWerk said a new city manager seemed appropriate since the economy seems to be rebounding and there has been more building activity and more proposals for projects.

He spoke about the renewed Ceres Chamber of Commerce, predicting that new president Renee Ledbetter would "overwhelm me because I run a fire department and a police department. I don't want to get in the way of the prosperity and forward progress of this city."

He asked the council to revisit the city's situation to ask "if this is an arrangement that you wish to have continue? That's a fair question and if the council determines that it's time to move to a new arrangement ... then I'm in total support of that."

He said he was very proud of his service and said "the best of my capabilities have been utilized."

In a statement issued through City Clerk Cindy Heidorn, the city noted: "The City Council wishes to thank Art for his dedicated service to the city as Acting City Manager for the last three and one-half years during
very difficult economic circumstances. Both the City Council and Mr. deWerk believe that it is now time to go back to the traditional City Manager form of government with the roles Public Safety Director and the
City Manager being separated. This will allow Art to focus his time on Public Safety issues.

"The Council is confident that Mr. Wells will bring the same work ethic and energy he has demonstrated to his new position as Acting City Manager. He will have a lot on his plate and will need the support and assistance of all city staff and employees. It is important that we all pull together during this transition to ensure that the City continues to provide the leadership and quality services that our citizens deserve."

Wells, 43, has risen through the ranks of the city operation rapidly. He was hired as city engineer in July, 2011 to replace a series of replacements for Joe Hollstein.

Wells grew up in Hilmar, attended Modesto Junior College and Fresno State University and started his own engineering firm from his home in Turlock.