LEMOORE — After five months with the city manager position in limbo, the city of Lemoore may have found an interim city manager in current Public Works Director Nathan Olson.
At the end of a long 2 ½ hour city council meeting, the moment nearly everyone was waiting for finally arrived when City Attorney Jenell Van Bindsbergen made the recommendation to council to appoint Olson to the position beginning June 7.
The motion was passed 4-1 with “yes” votes from Mayor Ray Madrigal, Mayor Pro Tem Eddie Neal and Councilmen Jeff Chedester and Dave Brown. Councilwoman Holly Blair was the only “no” vote. Blair added that she “strongly disagree[s] with the recommendation.”
Blair told the Sentinel Wednesday that she has nothing personal against Olson and she does not want his wife and children — who were at Tuesday’s meeting — to think she was personally attacking his character. She calls Olson a “good man,” but added she just believes he is “not the most-qualified of the applicants” for the position.
Olson was hired as the public works director in October 2015. He has a bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Phoenix. Before being the public works director, his background was in operations for a private manufacturing company.
Members of the council expressed their gratitude to Lemoore Police Chief and Acting City Manager Darrell Smith and gave their well-wishes to Olson.
“You stepped-up to the plate,” Brown told Smith. “I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude for what you’ve done for this city.”
“I want to thank Mr. Olson — you’ve done a fabulous job for public works. You’ve worn more hats than I can imagine,” Neal said. “And same to you Chief Darrell Smith, I see you working night and day.”
“I wanted to also thank Chief Smith for stepping-in and taking over the acting city manager role. He took us through some really difficult times,” Madrigal said. “I really appreciate Nate [Olson] for stepping-up and wanting the job, first of all. Thank you very much, we wish you all the luck.”
Olson told the Sentinel Wednesday he was initially unsure of whether to pursue the position, but after talking with his family and really considering the opportunity, he decided he was “definitely interested” and threw his name in the hat.
Olson said the whole process of working for the city has been a learning curve, and he expects that to continue, but said the city has a great executive team who “have a great opportunity to put the pieces in place” to take the city to the “next level.”
“I’m excited to get to work,” Olson said, adding he wants to be a positive influence in the city. “There are good things to come.”
Van Bindsbergen said the position is for a one-year term, with evaluations scheduled twice in the first six months on the job and once more in the last six months. The salary offered to Olson was $125,000 for the year, with a benefits package comparable to other city employees.
The city of Lemoore is now looking to hire an acting public works director.