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Locke steps down as Partnership CEO
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LATHROP — One can’t talk about Lathrop’s economic growth in the last decade or so without mentioning the non-profit San Joaquin Partnership at the same time.

The business park known as Crossroads Commerce Center that enjoys prime visibility to the busy Interstate 5 on South Harlan Road boasts a number of business tenants whose presence in San Joaquin County’s youngest incorporated city was due to the Partnership. When Fuel Total Systems, a company involved in fabricated rubber products located on Murphy Way, opened with plenty of fanfare several years ago in the Crossroads Commerce Center, it was thanks to the Partnership that the small city snagged one of the major industry players in the country, if not the world. According to FTS’s web site, the company currently has approximately 20 to 50 employees with an annual sales of $1 million to $4,999,999.

“The Partnership, when it was formed in 1990, was to bring the private sector’s focus on developing jobs in San Joaquin County, and I think it has amply fulfilled that objective,” said Mike Locke who has served as CEO and president of the organization since 1994.

After nearly 17 years at the helm, Locke is stepping down to pursue other professional challenges as the new deputy city manager for the City of Stockton. His resignation will be effective Jan. 7, 2011, according to a press release from the Partnership’s office in Stockton.

“Under Locke’s leadership, the San Joaquin Partnership, a private, non-profit economic development organization, has attracted or retained nearly 340 companies to San Joaquin County, generating more than 56,000 jobs and $10 billion in industry output,” stated in part the statement released by the partnership.

Locke said the decision to leave the position he has held for nearly two decades was not an easy one.

“The actual action of the (Partnership) board in terms of my contract was taken this morning,” said Locke who was a bit surprised at how soon the news was received by the news media.

In the same press release, Locke is quoted as saying, “I have been fully committed to this position and it has been rewarding work. My relationships with those that I have had the privilege to work with have made these past 16-plus years rewarding. Our success is due to the sum of the efforts of the Partnership’s Board of Directors, staff, our investors as well as both public and private leadership in our communities.”

In return, Partnership Chairman Kevin Huber stated in congratulating Locke on his new position, “The San Joaquin Partnership Board of Directors greatly appreciates Mike Locke’s 16-plus years of leadership. San Joaquin County has seen significant benefit from the success of the Partnership, and that success is due to our committed investors, our Board of Directors and, in no small part, to Mike Locke’s leadership.”

Locke, in a telephone interview on Monday, said the Partnership will have a window of 90 to 120 days to find his replacement. It will begin with a recruitment process which will be initiated by the board of directors.

The Partnership has in place a succession planning program that will be applied during the transitional-management period.

There will be additional action taken by the board related to this transition at their Dec. 9 meeting.

In the meantime, Locke said that he will continue to provide “some limited assistance to the board and staff as it relates to recruitment.”

A similar situation happened two years ago when he was out for two months. During that time, staff stepped out into slightly expanded roles to maintain the organization, which is what will happen after he leaves, Locke said. Oversight will be provided by the executive committee of the board which is comprised of five members including Manteca city councilman John Harris and Susan Dell’Osso of River Islands at Lathrop who is the board’s secretary.

“They will have oversight of day-to-day operations,” Locke said.

He added, “The Partnership has established a pretty broad national recognition. The board will have no difficulty finding a competent president and CEO to carry on for the next decade.”

Before taking on his top post with the Partnership, Locke served as Tracy city manager for 21 years.

“It was a challenge,” Locke said of the Partnership job that he accepted after his more than two-decade stint with the city of Tracy.

“I’m not afraid to take on challenges as I get older,” he said, this time referring to his new job with the City of Stockton.