MONTEBELLO — City Administrator Joseph M. Goeden has announced that he will leave the city to accept a job as head of a newly formed Northern California city.
Goeden, who has been city administrator in Montebello for almost nine years, will be replaced by Transportation Director Richard Torres, who will become Montebello's first Latino city administrator, officials said. Torres' appointment by the City Council was announced at the end of last week's council meeting.
"Richard will do a fine job," Goeden said in a telephone interview last week. "He's a great asset, he knows the community and is a sharp individual."
Goeden, a Washington state native who has worked for Montebello for the past 17 years, said his decision to accept an offer as city administrator in West Sacramento is not connected to recent political turmoil in Montebello.
"I saw something (in the West Sacramento offer) that was very attractive," Goeden said, adding that he and his family enjoy the more rural Northern California.
Montebello officials, residents and community activists are embroiled in a divisive election campaign that has been rife with accusations on both sides.
Opponents of three eminent domain ballot measures that will be decided on Tuesday have been harshly critical of city officials, including Goeden, for supporting a plan to give the Community Redevelopment Agency condemnation power in South Montebello.
Goeden, who is also redevelopment executive director, has urged the council to use eminent domain to spur commercial revitalization in South Montebello.
Opponents of that plan say that city officials have exaggerated claims of budget problems and blighted conditions to influence voters.
Unlike many Southeast cities, Montebello's Community Redevelopment Agency cannot use eminent domain to promote commercial revitalization unless given authority by the City Council or the electorate.
"I feel good about the decision" to leave Montebello, Goeden said, but "I have nothing but good feeling about this community. It's been good to me. There was a time when I felt I would never leave it."
Torres, who will take over as city administrator on May 13, has been a city employee for 11 years, city spokeswoman Joan Caterino said.
Torres, who was slated to become assistant city administrator in June, said that he did not expect the job offer. "It's pretty exciting," he said. "It's all happened so fast and furious."
A longtime resident of Montebello who graduated from Montebello High School in 1973, Torres began his career in the city as a business license inspector shortly after receiving his bachelor's degree in sociology from Occidental College.
He also worked in the Finance Department and was assistant city administrator from 1983 to 1987, Caterino said.
Neutral on Election
When asked about his position on Tuesday's election, Torres responded cautiously.
"I'm not a politician," he said. "I think the issue is going to be resolved May 2 by the voters. We will work with whatever voters decide then. It really doesn't matter what I think at this time."
But, he added, "I don't think eminent domain is a cure-all for the city."
Goeden said he expects challenges in his new post. The 23-square-mile West Sacramento was formed two years ago and has a population of 32,000. It is expected to grow to 40,000 in the next 10 years, he said.
In comparison, 8.3-square-mile Montebello boasts a population of 59,100 people.
"The issues will be different," Goeden said about the agricultural community where he will live. "It's a whole different life style."