One week after agreeing to become Hermosa Beach city manager, Gerald Caton changed his mind and said he will remain as Cudahy's top administrator.
Caton's withdrawal Tuesday after having negotiated tentative agreement with the City Council surprised Hermosa Beach city officials.
"I'm really surprised," said Councilman Roger Creighton. "I thought of him as a matter-of-fact sort of fellow, and I don't know where the tentative agreement broke down."
Caton, 36, said Tuesday that although the Hermosa Beach position would have advanced his career, he decided not to leave the Cudahy city manager's job because he "felt obligated to remain with the City of Cudahy." He said that he had many projects in the works, wanted to see them through and had been asked by council members not to leave.
"I do not feel bad about backing out (of the Hermosa beach job) at this point. If it went on any longer, I would feel bad," he said.
The Hermosa City Council scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. Monday to discuss its next step. Caton was chosen from among 76 applicants, six of whom--all men from California--were interviewed by the council.
The council ranked the six finalists, some members said.
After the position had been offered to Caton, council member June Williams said the council had a hard time choosing between two of the candidates. "I don't think any of us will feel too bad if either of them gets it," she said, declining to name the second choice.
Caton said last week that the city initially offered him $65,000 a year in salary, but later agreed to equal the $72,000 salary and retirement package he gets from Cudahy.
Even after the tentative agreement was reached last week, Caton told The Times that the Cudahy City Council was "still trying to get me to stay. I'm talking to them, but my intention is to come to Hermosa."
Cudahy Councilman Tom Thurman said Caton "felt a moral obligation to stay" so he could complete a variety of projects. "We were concerned that the city would be left in the lurch during an election year," said Thurman, pointing out that Caton also serves as city clerk. "There was some loyalty, which is refreshing to see on the city staff. We treat them as part of the team and it is nice to see that reciprocated."
Caton served four years in two separate stints as manager, with the most recent beginning in April, 1986, Thurman said.
Cudahy Councilman Bill Colon said the council did not try to persuade Caton to stay nor did it offer him more money. Although the Cudahy council would have been sorry to lose Caton, Colon said, it did not want to keep him from advancing.
"He wasn't quite sure whether he wanted to make the change or not, at least that's what he told me," Colon said. "The decision that he made was something that he made on his own. Naturally, we're happy that he's staying."
The Hermosa Beach position opened in September when former City Manager Gregory T. Meyer resigned to take a better-paying job as a deputy administrator of Los Angeles' City Redevelopment Agency. Former Manhattan Beach City Manager Gayle Martin has been serving as interim city manager in Hermosa Beach during the recruitment process.
Times staff writer Lee Harris contributed to this story.