Pacific Grove city manager poised to replace Jim App in Paso Robles

The city manager for Pacific Grove is the favored candidate to replace Jim App in the same post in Paso Robles.

The appointment and employment contract for Thomas Frutchey, 65, will be considered by the Paso Robles City Council at its meeting Tuesday.

“He (Frutchey) has extensive experience as city manager and private sector experience, he has an extraordinary academic background, a very professional demeanor, and he listens well,” App said. “He has the right mix of public and private sector experience that they (the council) were looking for.”

The search for a new city manager followed App’s decision to retire at the end of the year after 18 years in the position.

Of the 48 applicants for the position, the top seven were interviewed by three panels composed of City Council members, professionals and community members, Paso Robles Mayor Steven Martin said.

The candidates were narrowed down to the top three applicants and re-interviewed by the City Council. Frutchey, who has been city manager in Pacific Grove for the past six years, was among the top candidates selected by each panel, Martin said.

App listed the main potential challenges for Frutchey as continuing to work through a slow recovery from the recession — including timing the reinvestment of reserves, rehabilitating public facilities and rebuilding services — as well as issues surrounding potential groundwater litigation.

Frutchey, who has a bachelor of arts from Dartmouth College and a master of Public Policy from UC Berkeley, has also held the position of city manager in Oxnard, Campbell and Los Altos Hills. His other work history includes general manager at the Hollister Ranch Owners Association in Gaviota, vice president for Center for Policy Studies in Camarillo, vice president of Underground Technology Inc. in Ventura and president of Borla Performance Industries in Oxnard.

Frutchey said that he’s spent much of his career in both the public and private sectors addressing some of the same issues that Paso Robles is facing.

Water, fiscal stability, economic development, restoring services that were cut back during the recession and using special sales tax measure proceeds effectively to improve roads and transportation were among the top issues he listed if he were appointed city manger of Paso Robles.

“(Jim App) has set a really high standard. I have my work cut out, but I’m looking forward to it,” Frutchey said. “I’m eager to start work with the council, the staff and the community.”

Martin said he was impressed by the variety of Frutchey’s background and his participation in civic and honorary organizations, as well as his active approach toward managing, adding that Frutchey said, “Nothing gets done if you sit in your office.” Martin listed infrastructure, public safety and economic development as main focal points for a new city manager.

Councilman John Hamon said that he saw Frutchey as a strong candidate because of his impressive experience.

“Of all the people we talked to, I think he was the best. I think he is going to bring a lot to offer to Paso,” Hamon said.

Pacific Grove Mayor Bill Kampe said that the city made significant progress in finances, services and operations under Frutchey’s leadership — citing budget surpluses, increased library hours, improved street and sewer system maintenance and refreshed library and museum facilities.

“Paso Robles will be getting a very talented, energetic and innovative city manager,” he said.

Pacific Grove Mayor Pro Tempore Robert Huitt also endorsed Frutchey.

“He’s accomplished a great deal under some pretty difficult circumstances, especially (with) financial constraints. He’s been able to keep the city moving forward on a number of major projects,” Huitt said. “I think that we’re in better shape now than when he came. We’ve had budget surpluses every year for the past six years. We have several development projects underway that he’s been largely responsible for.”

A potential salary offer for Frutchey is expected to be determined Tuesday.

App’s current annual salary is $194,000, and Martin said the range for the position will go from $150,000 to $225,000 a year.

If appointed, Frutchey would begin duties Jan. 17. Assistant City Manager Meg Williamson will act as city manager in the interim after App leaves office Dec. 30.

Danielle Ames: 805-781-7902