The Lodi City Council took the first step toward finding City Manager Rad Bartlam’s successor on Tuesday morning.
The council voted 4-0 in closed session Tuesday to name City Attorney Steve Schwabauer interim city manager, effective Feb. 6.
“Steve works closely with Rad and has a firm grasp of many of the important issues facing the city,” Mayor Phil Katzakian said in a statement following the closed session. “Having him serve as interim city manager is in the best interest of the city and its citizens, and I expect it will be a smooth transition.”
Schwabauer was appointed city attorney in 2004 after five months in an interim capacity. He had been the deputy city attorney for five years prior to the appointment.
“I am tremendously honored by the council’s continued expression of faith in me,” Schwabauer said Tuesday. He said the council had given him another opportunity to help lead the city when he was appointed city attorney.
Upon that appointment, Schwabauer inherited a 15-year-old environmental contamination dispute. He led the way toward a settlement with the insurance companies of local businesses over groundwater contamination.
Schwabauer resolved the majority of the cases, saving the city millions in liability, as the city received $6.3 million in the settlements to clean up the PCE/TCE contamination in Downtown.
“Anything I brought to bear in the environmental contamination litigation, I will bring to bear as interim city manager,” he said.
Schwabauer said the council has yet to discuss who will take on the role of city attorney starting Feb. 6. He added the council has not yet planned its search for a permanent city manager.
Councilman Alan Nakanishi said the city’s employees wanted someone local to be appointed to the position, which is part of the reason the city attorney was chosen. Nakanishi said Schwabauer was also chosen because he is well-qualified to take on the role of city manager.
“The people who have known him for 12 years know he’s a good administrator with lots of integrity,” he said. “I think we made a good choice.”
Councilman Larry Hansen agreed.
“I’ve worked with Steve going on 12 years, and I think this is a good move on our part,” he said. “He knows the community, knows the personnel and knows the issues. He’s a quick study, and I think he’s going to do a great job.”
Councilman Bob Johnson said the city may have found its permanent city manager, noting that an interim appointment was how Bartlam was named to the job in 2010.
“I think all of us are very supportive of Steve,” Johnson said. “He’s been an exceptional city attorney. He’s demonstrated initiative, done his due diligence, and he’s a hard worker. Steve may in fact wind up as our next city manager, but time will tell.”
The appointment comes less than a week after Bartlam accepted the city manager’s position in Chino Hills.
Bartlam agreed to a three-year contract worth $202,800 annually in the Southern California city on Jan. 9, along with an $800 monthly car allowance. Chino Hills also gave him a one-time $10,000 relocation payment.
Bartlam, 53, has been Lodi’s city manager since 2010, and was the city’s community development director from 1996 to 2005. He was earning $179,000 a year in Lodi. His final day as city manager will be Feb. 5.
Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at email@example.com.