The Cambria Community Services District has hired a new general manager after two intensive executive-search sieges and nine months of operating with an interim leader.
The district Board of Directors on Thursday unanimously approved the hiring of retired Rear Adm. John F. Weigold of Cayucos, pending the completion of his physical and background check.
Weigold replaces former GM Jerry Gruber, who parted ways from the district last September after having been CCSD’s leader since 2011. Interim General Manager Paavo Ogren, also the part-time general manager for the Oceano Community Services District, has a contract that runs through Dec. 21 and will stay on to facilitate the transition to Weigold.
While Weigold has decades of experience in the military, aerospace and executive-search fields, he hasn’t worked before in municipal government or a small special district agency that provides water, sewage treatment, parks and other services. Board President David Pierson described Weigold in a phone interview as “trustworthy, astute and knowledgeable, and we thought those qualities overcame his lack of knowledge of municipal government.
“And he certainly had a lot of great people skills, listening, talking to people, setting goals as a leader in the Navy and later, looking for good people in executive searches, recognizing the right attributes to recommend to the companies he was working for.”
Board wanted to avoid hiring ‘retread’
Director Harry Farmer said prior to the vote some community members had urged him recently to not hire another “retread,” a manager from another district, and that “the qualities of the individual were more important than having experience with water and wastewater.”
“Now they’re saying, why are we hiring someone who doesn’t have experience with a CSD?” Farmer continued, shaking his head.
Farmer said Weigold’s most recent business partner had high praise for his associate.
Director Cindy Steidel lauded Weigold’s “strong ability of leadership.”
Director Amanda Rice praised him for being a “lifelong learner” who has already signed up to attend an upcoming educational session at the California Special Districts Association.
There were no comments from the audience about Weigold’s hiring. Weigold spoke briefly, saying if he’d been picking the CSD’s new GM, he’d have called his hiring “a bold selection. You could have chosen a cookie-cutter candidate... but sometimes, you don’t get what you think you’re going to get.”
“I may not have all the answers,” he said, “but I know how to get the answers.”
Resume includes military, executive service
Weigold’s salary for the first six months will be $155,000 a year plus standard managerial benefits, with a possible increase to $170,000 a year following a favorable review of his performance. As usual for a general manager, Weigold will serve at the pleasure of the board, but his proposed contract does not include any sort of severance clause should the board decide to let him go, Pierson said.
“We thought Weigold was certainly the best candidate we’ve seen,” Pierson said.
Most recently, Weigold had been working with the CEO of Water Intelligence in Palm Springs “to streamline the firm and make it more efficient, more profitable,” according to Pierson.
He’s also been a faculty member and lecturer at Yale University, according to his resume, and is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and attended three other military-related colleges. Weigold served on active duty in various joint, combined and coalition activities and exercises all over the world, according to his Navy bio.
Ogren’s future with the Cambria CSD beyond this year is uncertain, although the board voted 4-0 to change his title and some responsibilities. He has already indicated a December retirement date for his Oceano position.
Pierson said Ogren would mentor Weigold in areas in which the admiral has little experience, such as the ins and outs of municipal government and managing a small special district.