Retired City Manager William C. Winter, undaunted by the recession and state budget crunch he has battled in California, is going to Romania for two months to take on the legacy of a Communist bureaucracy as an adviser to the local government.
Winter plans to leave Saturday for Arad, a city of about 200,000 that over the centuries has been governed by Romans, Tatars, Turks and Hungarians. The city is in a province that became part of Romania after World War I.
"Everything that I've read says the people are really interested in democracy and opening up the country," Winter said. "Hopefully, that will be the case."
Winter was recommended for the position by another former Fullerton city manager, William F. Cornett, who worked last year as a government adviser in Hungary for the International Executive Service Corps, an organization based in Stamford, Conn., that tries to place professionals in developing countries.
Romania asked the Service Corps to supply two city managers, Winter said, and Cornett suggested him. The two men will be given housing and a food allowance but will volunteer their time. Cornett, who lives in San Diego, will advise the city of Timisoara.
Arad is only 40 miles from Timisoara, where government forces shot hundreds of protesters in 1989, before Nicolae Ceausescu's repressive regime was overthrown. Winter said Arad's present mayor is the first democratically elected mayor since World War II. "He feels that there really is no administrative structure at all," Winter said.
Winter said that he will have a translator and that he plans to study the current government structure there before making recommendations. "I envision meeting with the department heads and comparing (things there with) how things are done in the United States," he said.
Winter said he will also explain how the city of Fullerton tackles its budget, and how it approaches the basic challenges of running a city. He said Arad, like Fullerton, manages museums, a small airport, a planning department, a legal department, and maintenance services. City Manager James L. Armstrong, who took over from Winter in October, said Winter will be an excellent teacher for the Romanians. "There's democratic traditions that we have in our system," Armstrong said. "Unless you worked under our environment, it's hard to teach people that."
Winter retired on Oct. 9 after 13 years as city manager and 20 years as a city employee.
Debra Ashworth, Winter's secretary at City Hall for six years, said she believes that Winter's former job was challenging enough to prepare him for the newly democratic Romania. "We never know what each day is going to hold," she said. And Winter did not shy away from conflict, she said. "He was never afraid to get (involved) if there was a complaint."