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Downey Picks Cudahy Chief as City Manager : Gerald Caton Says He Will Focus on Shopping Center Expansion, Search for New Police Chief

August 17, 1989|ANNETTE KONDO and LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writers

DOWNEY — City officials Tuesday chose Cudahy City Manager Gerald M. Caton to replace retiring Downey City Manager Don Davis.

Caton, 38, was unanimously selected to replace Davis, who has been Downey city manager since June, 1985. Davis, 53, will retire Monday.

Downey Administrative Services Director Lee Powell will be acting city manager until Caton comes aboard in October.

In his new post, Caton said he will receive an annual salary of $105,000, which is an increase of about $25,000 above his current pay.

"It's a very good opportunity," Caton said Tuesday night. "Downey is the premier city in the southeast county."

Caton will be leaving Cudahy, a densely populated and predominantly Latino community of 21,000, for a mostly white middle-and-upper-income community of more than 86,000.

Cudahy's general operating budget for fiscal year 1989-90 is about $5.2 million, while Downey's general operating budget is nearly $50 million.

Caton was one of three finalists from among 40 candidates for the post, Downey Mayor Randall R. Barb said.

New Manager Praised

Barb said Caton has two urgent goals: to continue the city's redevelopment efforts and to keep gang and drug problems under control. Caton, he said, fits the needs of Downey with his experience in Cudahy and his ability to make decisions.

"He has brought the city of Cudahy through serious financial problems and was able to get federal grants," Barb said. "Also, he was successful as the director of the redevelopment program there."

When he arrives at Downey, Caton said he will have many priorities: "One of the things internally is the police chief will be retiring. I will be working on the selection for police chief.

"Also, the Stonewood shopping center is very important for the economic life of the community, so I want to make sure that it gets accomplished in a timely manner."

Downey is planning a major expansion for the Stonewood shopping center, which is viewed as key to the city's efforts to modernize the Firestone Boulevard commercial corridor and increase its tax base.

Caton has been Cudahy's city manager since 1982, injecting new life into the city's redevelopment projects, Mayor Tom Thurman said.

Caton revitalized redevelopment projects, including a $14-million shopping center and the community's first supermarket, Thurman said.

"I wish he wasn't going, but he would be a fool to pass up an opportunity like this," he said.

Thurman said he expected his City Council to name Jack Joseph, assistant city manager, acting city manager while officials search for a replacement for Caton.

Caton said that in the last year and a half he has also been offered three other city manager jobs in the Southland: Hermosa Beach, Cathedral City and San Clemente.

Thurman said that city officials knew that Caton "had been looking around" and that his council had included a $5,000 bonus in this year's budget "as sort of a carrot" to try to keep him.

"But Downey made him an offer he couldn't refuse," Thurman added.

Caton's seven-year stint at Cudahy was interrupted by an eight-month hiatus that began in September, 1985, when he resigned during a controversy over a the casino planned for the city. The casino is now being built and is projected to open at the end of the year.

"The main controversy was that the City Council wished to hire a finance director who would oversee the casino and had no background in local government," Caton said. Caton was rehired by the city in April, 1986.

Has Several Degrees

Caton was also assistant city manager for in Signal Hill for five years and assisted the planning department and the administration of federal and state grants for Garden Grove, he said.

Caton has a degree in history from Cal State Long Beach and a master's degree from USC's School for Public Administration.

Davis will step down after four years as city manager. He had also worked 27 years with the city's Fire Department, eight as fire chief.

He said that when he took the city manager's job, he told the council that he would stay for just four years.

He said he has no definite retirement plans but may work with developers on projects, consult in the public sector or work on a family venture.

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