The word “interim” is gone from Toni Lundgren’s title.
The 44-year-old Lundgren is now “the” city manager of Manteca.
A unanimous 5-0 City Council vote on Friday capped Lundgren’s 15-month run first as acting city manager and then as interim city manager.
Details of her contract are expected to be hammered out in June.
Lundgren emerge on top of a professional recruiting firm search that was coupled with a four-step vetting process that started with 34 candidates that met basic qualifications.
It involved three candidate screening panels — one professional based, one community based, and one featuring existing city department heads
It accumulated with the council interviewing the three top candidates.
What made the process different than those going back to 2016 that started a period when Manteca went through six city managers — two of whom were interim — was the decision by Mayor Gary Singh to appoint a two-member council subcommittee that observed candidates at each of the three panel reviews.
Singh opted to appoint Charlie Halford and Dave Breitenbucher to the subcommittee. Two council members that had expressed concerns with the depth of Lundgren’s background in city finances and her general experience.
On Friday, both indicated they believed the council had selected the best candidate to lead Manteca as city manager.
“We are obviously happy (with Lundgren),” Halford said. “I’m comfortable that she can handle it,”
Halford noted Lundgren had the institutional knowledge and the ability and drive to continue building on what several council members termed “a solid foundation” of knowledge required to oversee city operations.
Breitenbucher — who at each juncture in the past 15 months when the council talked about the best ways to replace the last city manager, Toby Wells, that was on the job for just a matter of months insisted a permanent city manager replacement be found with a wide open application process — was also satisfied the best candidate was picked.
“We didn’t cut any corners,” Breitenbucher said of the search for a permanent city manager.
Councilman Jose Nuno echoed Breitenbucher’s sentiments.
“We did a national search,” Nuno said.
He noted the effort attracted a number of qualified and strong candidates.
Nuno called Lundgren “the best fit.”
“She has the institutional knowledge — she’s been with the city 16 years — and she cares about Manteca,” Vice Mayor Mike Morowit said.
Morowit said he was pleased that Lundgren matched up strong with other candidates. He noted what gave her an edge in addition to the fact she could do the job, work with staff, as well as is dedicated to expanding her knowledge of municipal government is the fact the city doesn’t have to start from scratch again.
By that, he refences the time it takes for a city manager to build trust with employees, learn what is going on in various departments and then reshapes how the city is operated drawing on their unique professional experiences.
In Lundgren’s case, Morowit said she has built a solid rapport with city employees while helping stabilize the city’s finances and workplace perceptions.
Singh went as far as to say Manteca, after a rough six years of bleeding employees, now has a reputation as a place where people want to work.
“We can keep things moving (with Lundgren),” Morowit said of various initiatives now underway involving downtown, economic development, establishing a homeless navigation center and such.
Singh said the city has great applicants and that Lundgren was strong in all the panel interviews.
“She’s involved in the community,” Singh said. “She’s home grown.”
Singh pointed out Lundgren has spent the last four years in the city manager’s office either as a deputy city manager or else interim city manager.
The mayor indicated that Lundgren was never the “preordained choice.”
“We went into the recruitment process looking for the best for Manteca,” Singh said.
Proof is the unanimous vote Lundgren received.
Lundgren said she was looking forward to working with the council, staff and community “to do what is best for Manteca.”
She grew up in Linden, 20 miles to the northeast of Manteca, where she graduated from Linden High.
After Delta College, she earned a degree at Long Beach State.
Lundgren has 25 years working in municipal government. Before starting in Manteca 16 years ago, she worked in Stockton, Lodi, and Escalon.
Lundgren for the first part of her career worked in parks and recreation departments.
She pointed out it is a department heavily reliant on the general fund and healthy municipal finances to be able to provide the services that citizens want.
Over the years when trying to initiate programs the community wanted, she said she grew weary of always hearing the word “no.”
Lundgren said that one of the goals — and that of the council — is to have the city on a strong financial footing so that the city can provide the general fund services that citizens need and desire.
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