Warren Frace, Atascadero’s community development director, is leaving his city post for the same job in his hometown of Paso Robles, beating out about 40 other applicants for the position.
“I’ve been in Atascadero for 15 years, and I could spend another 15 years here,” Frace said. “But for personal growth reasons, you need to change jobs and challenge yourself with something new.”
Frace, 47, will receive a $152,244 annual salary in Paso Robles — nearly $25,000 more than what he most recently earned in Atascadero.
His last day is Jan. 27, and he starts work in Paso Robles the next day.
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Frace is the fifth department head to leave Atascadero in the past three years and is the last remaining city executive who had participated in the 2012 negotiations with Wal-Mart and another developer on a roadwork cost-sharing agreement related to constructing two shopping centers on the north end of town.
Those negotiations received public criticism in recent months after the city announced in the fall that the improvements could cost at least three times more than the agreement estimated.Atascadero’s city manager, assistant city manager, director of public works and director of community services have all left their jobs with the city since 2012.
Completing the Wal-Mart project was something Frace said he would have liked to see accomplished.
“I knew it was going to be a lengthy, difficult project, but I think it’s been much longer than I think anyone anticipated,” he said.
The discussion over whether a Wal-Mart store and adjacent shopping center will be built at Del Rio Road and El Camino Real has been going on for about a decade. The City Council approved the project in 2012, but litigation caused a delay and, to date, the national retailer has not applied for building permits.
Frace was hired by the city of Atascadero in 1999 as a planning manager and became the community development director in 2001. He has overseen a department of eight employees, tackling several development projects including the construction of Colony Square downtown, restoration of the Sunken Gardens and updating the city’s master plan for growth.
He has enjoyed bringing in a mix of housing developments that preserve open space and creeks, as well as helping to improve the downtown, he said.
Shifting his focus to Paso Robles, Frace said he is looking forward to helping guide further development of the city’s historic downtown and recently adopted plans to reshape its west side.
“That gridded old-town area has even more potential,” he said.
Frace succeeds Paso Robles’ previous community development director, Ed Gallagher, who retired in December after 30 years with the city. Paso Robles spent $17,000 to contract with search firm Avery & Associates to find a successor.
The statewide search turned up about 40 applicants over about six months, according to the city. The Paso Robles City Council approved Frace’s appointment in closed session Tuesday.