Tom Westbrook spent 20 years of his life working behind the scenes of Ceres city government. That came to an end with his departure at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
Westbrook resigned as city manager to become Community Development Director of Red Bluff where he was raised and where his mother still lives.
He began his career in Ceres as associate planner in January 2001 and became Senior Planner in July 2004. Westbrook was named Planning and Building Manager in July 2010 and Community Development director in 2012. After Toby Wells departed in April 2020 Westbrook was appointed city manager. For the last 16 months Westbrook also served in the dual role as city manager and Community Development director.
Westbrook’s departure comes at a time of other personnel changes. On Monday the council approved the hiring of Alex Terrazas as interim city manager and a new Community Development director in Christopher Hoem. Hoem was most currently employed by Santa Clara County as associate and senior planner and Policy Analyst.
The council is also seeking to hire a new city engineer to replace Daniel Padilla who left last month for Menifee.
“By the end of the year hopefully this city will be back to full staff with a permanent city engineer (and) a permanent city manager,” said Westbrook.
On Monday various people who worked with Westbrook heaped on their praise. Renee Ledbetter of the Ceres Chamber of Commerce tearfully spoke of how he devoted time to community functions. She presented a plaque to him.
Former City Councilman Mike Kline, who worked a combined 13 years with Westbrook on the Planning Commission and City Council, praised him for his personality and tenacious.
“You’ve done a fantastic job,” Kline told Tom. “I can’t say enough about you and speak highly enough about what you mean to me for the 13 years that I got to spend with you at the city.”
Harinder Toor, a local contractor, said Westbrook was always a help and always returned phone calls.
“It’s a very sad day to lose someone who is truly an asset to the city of Ceres,” Toor said. “If all else fails, please come back.”
At the Monday, Aug. 16 Planning Commission, members sent off Westbrook with praises.
“Over my 20-year career I’ve probably attended 400 or so Planning Commission meetings and tonight will be the final one, which is a little bit bitter-sweet,” said Westbrook.
Commission Chairwoman Laurie Smith said she has known Westbrook for over 14 years and learned a lot from Westbrook and wished him the best in Red Bluff.
Commissioner Bob Kachel called Westbrook “the consummate professional right from the beginning … been a rock to rely on and count on and faith in.”
Dave Johnson, the newest member of the commission, said Westbrook will be missed. He said he appreciated Westbrook’s open door policy.
Westbrook said he looks forward to the slower pace of a smaller city so he can spend more time at home with his family.
“I was born there, raised there, graduated high school there,” said Westbrook. “My mother lives there and so she’s going to see her grandkids as much as she wants. I left that community when I went to college 28 years ago and haven’t lived there since and have a lot of friends and family members up there.”
Westbrook was instrumental in the development of a number of projects, including the construction of the Walmart Supercenter within the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center. Westbrook has been working on processing the project for 14 and a half years, which is as old as his daughter. The project was delayed for many years because of legal challenges but is now under construction. Westbrook said he may have to take the day off and return to Ceres to attend the grand opening later this year.
He also assisted Blaker Brewing to locate in Ceres.
Westbrook said he takes pride in getting the Ceres General Plan updated, followed by the Municipal Code update.
“Those are pretty heavy lifts for anybody in their career no matter what city they work for and being able to shepherd the General Plan through its two-and-a-half year process to conclusion with all of the public outreach and the engagement we did was quite an accomplishment,” said Westbrook. “And then the Municipal Code. It’s such a bear of a document because of its length and all the intricate nature.
“I just think those are things I’ll smile and look back on and think that I was so proud to be a part of.”
Westbrook said Ceres faces some exciting new things on the horizon. He believes the construction of the Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center with its Walmart Supercenter will “kick off some new services and uses that will be afforded to the Ceres community into the future.”
The Ceres Gateway project is expected to move forward soon in the triangle-shaped piece south of the Supercenter project.
Those projects will be enhanced by the planned freeway interchange at Service and Mitchell roads. He said the interchange will be a dramatic improvement to move around town.
Westbrook also saw the West Landing and Mitchell Ranch annexations “which will position the city for future residential and commercial and some industrial opportunities.”
“I think that all of those things just makes me smile knowing that this community is going to be in a better place than it is today in the near future,” said Westbrook.