Lincoln hires city manager

By: Cheri March The News Messenger
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The City Council appointed James D. Estep as Lincoln's new city manager on Tuesday. Estep, 50, will replace retiring city manager Jerry Johnson, who will step down May 1 after nearly seven years with the city and 40 years in public service. It's a bittersweet kind of thing, but I don't have any regrets, Johnson said. It's been a wonderful experience here in Lincoln and I'm looking forward to retirement. Estep will ease into his new role starting April 28 and take full responsibility the day Johnson retires. Since September, he's served as interim city manager for Elk Grove, where he was hired as assistant city manager in February 2006. He has also worked as assistant city manager for Folsom and San Ramon. Estep said the prior positions helped prepare him for the latest challenge. Lincoln and Elk Grove have a lot of similarities, he said. Elk Grove has had new growth in urban areas, but it also has rural areas. Learning to deal with that interface “ having the growth, but incorporating the rural without sacrificing it “ is very similar (to Lincoln). Lincoln Mayor Primo Santini said it was that feel for the community that set Estep apart from a pool of qualified candidates. He demonstrated a good understanding and knowledge of the city, Santini said. Lincoln has a heritage and a feel and we want to grow in a way that enhances that feeling. Another quality that impressed Santini was Estep's ability to manage not just on a citywide scale, but at a larger regional level “ particularly important as Lincoln moves forward with its 2050 general plan update. None of this planning is going on in a vacuum, Santini said. Important issues like transportation, clean air and water are all regional. Jim (Estep) has experience with some other cities in the region and I think he'll be able to hit the ground running. Estep said he looks forward to seeing the (general plan update) process to fruition. He also relishes a possibly more daunting challenge “ ensuring Lincoln's fiscal stability. I'm interested in looking at the financial situation, he said. Given the current state of the economy, I want to help make sure Lincoln is financially solid. It's that economy that will keep Estep commuting from his Folsom home, at least for a while. Ultimately, we would like to move to Lincoln, he said. It's a great time to buy right now, but not so great a time to sell. Estep received his bachelor's degree in horticulture and master's degree in business administration from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He's been married to wife Carolyn for 26 years and has two daughters attending college. As city manager, he will receive an annual salary of $197,000.