BY STEVE ARCHER
OF THE LINCOLN NEWS MESSENGER
Reaction to the unexpected June 12 announcement of Lincoln City Manager Matt Brower’s resignation can mostly be characterized as disappointed. Brower will become Heber City’s new city manager in Utah on July 16.
Several residents interviewed by The Lincoln News Messenger said they will miss Brower’s civic-mindedness and community involvement.
Lincoln City Councilman Gabriel Hydrick said Brower made a positive difference in the community.
“Matt and his wife brought a very real and tangible energy to our community through a variety of avenues and it proved to be very valuable,” Hydrick said. “His efforts greatly contributed to the enhancement of the quality of life Lincoln offers.”
Hydrick hopes the next city manager will have the same level of energy, enthusiasm and organizational abilities.
“I'll also look for a city manager that offers versatility in management style,” Hydrick said. “They may come in with a 'boxed' management style but we can't have that.”
“Council is currently identifying the process we'd like to use,” Hydrick added. “… If I recall correctly, we went out twice before we found Matt. We had to do this with other high level positions such as human resources, the police chief and director of Community Services. The council has and will take the decision seriously and prudently.”
Councilman Peter Gilbert said Brower “brought several programs to Lincoln that have made our town better, such as Art in Public Places, clean-up days in downtown Lincoln and others.”
“In terms of finding a good city manager for our city, it is not a simple task,” Gilbert said.
“First, there is the issue of finding candidates that can afford to move to California where our property values are very high compared to other regions,” Gilbert added. “My thoughts are that the right candidate should have experience as a city manager and hopefully in California. Some very important areas are different than most of the country and there is a very steep learning curve for most candidates coming from outside California.”
The city would be fortunate to find a candidate, Gilbert said, who “has worked in a full-service community including a fire department, police department, Parks and Recreation department and an airport.”
“A large number of cities do not have a full-service platform like (Lincoln),” Gilbert said. “There are other important traits such as compatibility and dedication to our General Plan. I also believe that we should involve the staff and community at large in helping the council make the best decision possible.”
City Councilman Paul Joiner said “remarkable progress has been made in the roughly three years Mr. Brower has been Lincoln’s city manager. He and his team are to be commended.”
“Infrastructure projects have been constructed or are underway throughout the city, including the massive regional sewer project, road rehabilitation and reconstruction and waterline replacement in the older portions of the city,” Joiner said. “As well as the Lincoln Boulevard Improvement projects, Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements throughout the city, construction of Nathan Dubin Park and multiple phases of Chief Jimenez Park.”
Brower has also influenced Lincoln culturally, according to Joiner.
“Under Mr. Brower’s leadership, we saw the expansion of the Lincoln Archives, a permanent home for Lincoln Arts, the renovation of the Civic Center and agreements with the Lincoln Theatre Company, bringing live theatre to our historic downtown,” Joiner said. “Let’s not forget the agreements with William Jessup University, the Lincoln Potters and Placer Valley Tourism, which brought major renovation, restoration and expansion of historic McBean Stadium.”
Joiner wants the next city manager to have knowledge, experience and strong leadership running a growth community.
“I’m also looking for demonstrated strengths in finance, development and economic development,” Joiner said. “It would be a plus if they also had experience in airport operations and shared services agreements between municipalities and counties.”
Former Lincoln City Councilman Spencer Short advised the current council to take its time in deciding.
“The last two city manager hires were the result of a rushed process. If it’s not the right fit, go back out,” Short said. “This council needs to figure out that Lincoln is a prime opportunity for a city manager who has integrity and a proper set of skills that are quantifiable as far as building true community and who won’t supplant the good people we have with their own.”
Lincoln Planning Commission Chairman Dan Cross said Brower’s departure is “unfortunate, sad and the city loses by losing him.”
“He’s been a unique city manager,” Cross said. “He’s been out front, visible and he’s taken up the cause of the arts and all the things that add to our cultural life, instead of only operating from behind a desk. He was not afraid to get involved and he was an excellent manager on top of that.”
Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce President Cherri Spriggs-Hernandez is grateful for Brower.
“We thank Matt for his service to the city,” Spriggs-Hernandez said. “We look forward to working with the new city manager as our Lincoln moves into its next phase of growth and economic prosperity.”
Resident Carol Witten, a city Economic Development Committee member, called it a privilege to know Brower the last three years.
“He’s helped our community so much. I’m sorry to see him go,” Witten said. “He made a commitment to be a Lincolnite and he and his wife were wholeheartedly a part of many community activities. That says a lot and I wouldn’t expect any less from the next city manager.”
Lincoln resident Jean Cross, Art League of Lincoln creative director and president, is disappointed Brower is leaving and will miss his positive attitude.
“I was so impressed with him and the way he came for everything to support the community,” Jean Cross said. “He would roll up his sleeves and clean, set up or whatever was needed. He was a major force in the Art in Public Places campaign and an extremely valuable member of the Art League of Lincoln.
“I appreciate all he has done for the community,” Jean Cross added. “It’s a significant loss for Lincoln. It seemed like he wanted to be a part of everything.”
Brower also had his critics, including the L.I.F.T. Group, or unified to lifting Lincoln to new heights through Integrity, Financial responsibility and total Transparency. Members of the L.I.F.T. group, which successfully sued the city of Lincoln over illegal water rates, were frequently at odds with Brower regarding City Hall transparency.
L.I.F.T. group member Jessica Booth and her organization “truly wish Mr. Brower well in his new position.”
“We are grateful that he recognized that he needed to move on, both for his sake and for the city of Lincoln’s sake,” Booth said. “His departure is an opportunity for the City Council to get it right this time. Hopefully, the City Council recognizes that the successful city manager is one with an unblemished history of developing strong, positive working relationships and a record of successfully resolving long- standing problems.”
“We believe that they must hire from within California to assure the new manager possesses the requisite knowledge of the California Government Codes that govern the city’s departments,” Booth added. “Ideally, the new city manager will have experience managing a California city of at least the size of Lincoln if not larger. It is critical for the City Council to hire a city manager who has a record of managing transparently and fairly in all situations and with all individuals.”
Kelleen Potter, Heber City mayor and its acting city manager, said last Thursday she is excited Brower will be the new city manager. Potter is acting city manager until Brower arrives.
“His contract was approved at the (June 7) council meeting,” Potter said. “There were about 60 applicants for the job. We narrowed it down to 15 phone interviews and then we interviewed five candidates in person.”
“It was a lengthy process,” Potter added. “He shows maturity and experience. I think he is perfect for a city going through growing pains. We’re thrilled he was willing to accept the job and move to Heber.”
Brower was the unanimous first choice for two committees, one comprised of local elected officials and city staff, and another comprised of regional city managers.
Potter hopes Brower’s civic-mindedness will translate into more city events.
“Our city does not do a lot of celebrations. It’s been run in a frugal way,” Potter said. “We really only have the farmers’ market.”