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Up until 16 days ago retired Modesto police chief was Manteca’s interim police chief for 7 months

Michael Harden — who served as Manteca’s interim police chief for seven months — has been hired by the City Council to serve as interim city manager.

The retired Modesto Police Chief’s first day on the job will be Monday, April 19.

The City Council on Tuesday is expected to approve the contract they directed staff to hammer out with Harden earlier this month in  a closed session that will make Harden the interim city manager.

Harden will be paid $114.61 per hour with no other benefits such as health insurance and retirement. Assuming he works a 40-hour week he will be making $4,584.40 a week or the equivalent of $238,388 on a yearly basis.

Harden will receive a $300 a month car allowance. He will also be issued a city cell phone and a city i-Pad for use during the duration of his employment.

Harden’s contract goes through Oct. 22, 2021 with an option to extend it through Nov. 19, 2021.

The City Council will use the time to conduct a search for a permanent city manager.

If they appoint a permanent city manager before his contract runs out, the council will give him a two to four weeks’ notice.

The only thing that could possibly change the terms of the contract as delineated is if the statewide COVID-19 health emergency is lifted. If that occurs the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) rules restricting retirees to 960 hours of work that was suspended would be re-instated. The city, at that point, would have to modify Harden’s work schedule to work around that limitation.

The need to secure an interim manager was predicated by the resignation of the previous city manager Miranda Lutzow at the end of February so she could return to Canada.

Assistant City Manager Lisa Blackmon — who earlier this month submitted her resignation as of June 5 to take an assistant city manager’s post in Waco, Texas with a population of 141,936 — had been appointed the acting city manager until an interim city manager was put in place.

Blackmon, who has family in Waco, will continue to report to work as assistant city manager until May 28.

Harden is not expected to make any permanent department head hires. The council, based on previous practices, is leaving that to whomever the permanent city manager ends up being so that person will have their own team in place.

That means department heads for finance, police, and fire will continue to be filled by interim or acting appointees until that time. That list will also include the assistant city manager after June 5.

The City Council directly hires only the city manager and city attorney. The city manager hires all department heads and runs the day-to-day operations of municipal government.

Prior to being Manteca’s interim police chief, Harden worked for the Modesto Police Department for nearly 30 years including as police chief from 2009 to 2012.

Harden served as interim city manager of Hughson for five months in 2013. He has also been the interim police chief in Escalon, Oakdale, and Sonora since his retirement form the Modesto Police Department.

Harden took over as interim Manteca police chief last August.  His last day on the job was March 31 when Manteca Police Operations Division Commander Mike Aguilar again became the interim police chief. Aguilar served as interim police chief from November 2019 to August 2020 after previous police chief Jodie Estarziau was placed on administrative leave and eventually terminated.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email