Toby Wells is expecting to leave his post as Ceres city manager to become Turlock’s city manager.
The agenda for the Tuesday meeting of the Turlock City Council includes an action item to hire Wells. His hiring in Turlock is now a mere formality.
“Mr. Wells has done an excellent job and I’m definitely sad to see him leave but understand this is a bigger opportunity for him in a bigger city,” said Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra.
Wells became the city manager in April 2014 after the departure of Art deWerk who had been serving as both chief of police and acting city manager. He previously was hired as the Public Works Department director and city engineer.
Wells said he didn’t actively seek the city manager’s job in financially beleaguered Turlock but they called him from a resume he submitted three years ago. Wells was a finalist in 2017 but the council didn’t hire anyone. When Turlock recruited again in 2018 Wells did not apply and the council hired Bob Lott. When Lott left last summer the Turlock council reached out to Wells again and he expressed his interest. Instead, Michael Cook was hired as an interim city manager. When Cook announced he no longer wants the job, the council interviewed Wells on Feb. 17 and decided to hire him.
Wells said he’s proud of the accomplishments of the city during his tenure. They include the updating of the Ceres General Plan, renovations of Fourth Street, capital projects and a healthier budget due to enhanced revenues from development agreements for cannabis operations.
“The first year as city manager,” said Wells, “I think our General Fund revenue was about $15 million, last year was $26 million – that’s pretty big.”
He feels the Ceres City Council will be able to take a big whack at paying down the Community Center operational deficit in the next budget.
The City Council will have to decide how to fill the vacancy but Wells said he will recommend the hiring of Community Development Director Tom Westbrook because of his experience and knowledge of the city.
“I was able to learn a lot kind of sitting on the sidelines,” said Westbrook. “It’ll be interesting to see what direction the council wants to go. I don’t know if I’ll be part of the process.”