LEMOORE — Following 18 years of service to the city of Lemoore, City Manager and former police chief Jeff Laws announced that he will retire on March 6.
Laws submitted his resignation to the Lemoore City Council on Tuesday night. Mayor Lois Wynne announced Laws’ retirement via a press release on Thursday afternoon.
Wynne told The Sentinel that the decision came as a surprise to the council.
“That caught us all off guard,” Wynne said.
Wynne said the council will hold a closed-session discussion on Jan. 20 to discuss how it will go about finding a replacement for the city’s top manager. She said the process will likely entail appointing an interim city manager and opening recruitment for the position.
Reached for comment Friday, Laws said he decided to retire before the end of his three-year contract so he can spend more time with his family. Laws said he plans to enjoy his retirement by travelling and seeing the country with his wife.
“It’s been a wonderful time here for the last 18 years,” Laws said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it working with some great people.”
Prior to being hired as city manager in late 2013, Laws had spent nearly 30 years in law enforcement. He started his career as a reserve police officer in his home town of Porterville before taking a full-time job with the Lindsay Police Department. Laws was hired as a commander with the Lemoore Police Department in 1997 and became chief in 2009.
Laws was first appointed as acting city manager after former City Manager Jeff Briltz was forced to resign in March 2013 amid changing policy direction on the City Council. Over the next several months, Laws performed dual duties at city hall and the police department while the council worked to recruit a permanent city manager.
After narrowing 16 applications down to four and interviewing the top candidates, the council decided to tap Laws for the position. Laws has previously said that he never applied for the job, but was called in for an informal interview where he was offered the job.
Among the accomplishments he is most proud of is establishing the city’s neighborhood watch and Volunteers in Policing programs during his time as a police commander. As city manager, he said, he was happy to play a part in securing a $1.4 million grant to pay for improvements at the Lemoore Senior Center, as well as facilitating a contract with the CrisCom Co. to attract retail development.
Laws has led the city during a time that included several City Council decisions that were not well-received by some citizens. Those changes included the outsourcing of the city’s planning department and working to address about $3.5 million of debt tied to the Lemoore Municipal Golf Course.
The controversies appear to have quieted down in recent months. Laws said he believes the current city council is in a much better position to attract a qualified replacement now than it was in 2013. At that time, the city received just 16 applications for the job.
“I think they stand a very good chance to get a very good city manager,” Laws said.
Laws said he has offered to remain available to city staff by phone to assist with the transition after he departs.
Among the major issues to come before the City Council in the near future are the renewal of the city’s contract with the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce, the future of the golf course and the potential construction of a dispatch center for the city’s police and fire departments. Planned expansion at Naval Air Station Lemoore is also expected to have an impact on the city.