Rick Haydon attended more than 500 City Council meetings during his service to Santa Maria. On Tuesday night, he attended his final city government session.

At the start of Tuesday’s regular City Council meeting, Santa Maria’s leaders took time to officially recognize and thank Haydon for his 21 years of service to the city and congratulate him on his retirement, which took effect when he walked out of City Hall for the last time on Dec. 5.

“My time here has been both challenging and rewarding. Thank you for supporting my administration and my vision for the city,” Haydon said.

Haydon came to Santa Maria as its assistant city manager on Aug. 21, 1996. He served alongside then City Manager Tim Ness until the baton was passed to him six years ago.

Soon after his appointment, Haydon had to tackle some tough issues, including furloughs of city employees, a number of highly publicized officer-involved shootings, as well as the officer-involved shooting death of an on-duty police officer.

On Tuesday night, an emotional Mayor Alice Patino praised Haydon for guiding the city through some difficult challenges and working to restructure and improve the city’s police department.

“As soon as you became our city manager, it was one thing after another, after another. You overcame all of those obstacles. Nothing interrupted you and it was smooth sailing throughout,” Patino said.

She further commended Haydon for how he brought former Police Chief Ralph Martin to Santa Maria and choosing current Police Chief Phil Hansen to lead the department. Though Martin and Hansen were in charge, Haydon chose them to rebuild the department to get it where it is today.

Councilman Jack Boysen agreed.

“You took us from a police department that was in chaos to one that is admired throughout the state, even the nation,” he said. “It was you that put that team together. I really think that is going to be your No. 1 legacy. Who knows where we would have been without you.”

Councilwoman Etta Waterfield likened Haydon’s administration to a basketball team with him as its coach.

“You were the coach that brought the team together; it was the Lakers of old,” she said.

Councilman Michael Moats, though a longtime planning commissioner has only been a member of the City Council for about one year. Moats thanked Haydon for his mentorship during the short time they worked so closely together.

Council Mike Cordero worked with Haydon for almost all of the 21 years he was with the city. Before being elected to the City Council twice, he worked for the Santa Maria Police Department.

“I appreciate the listening you did for me when I was on the Police Department,” Cordero said. “There was no time to mess around with Rick.”

Haydon thanked everyone for their praise Tuesday and their service to the city, especially the heads of the city’s nine departments.

“I did not work in a vacuum. I had a lot of help,” Haydon said.

Waterfield, along with the rest of the City Council, also took time to thank Haydon’s wife, Cherri, for supporting him and allowing him to give up time away from his family to help Santa Maria.

Haydon's successor, Jason Stilwell, thanked his former boss while seated in his new seat in the council chambers.

“There is so much to say about the good work that you accomplished here. I will simply state, 'Thank you for your service. Thank you for the efforts that laid the groundwork for us to move forward,'” Stilwell said.

Haydon said now that he is retired, he is looking forward to spending time with his children.

“I am all dad, all the time,” Haydon said.

As Haydon left the council chambers for the final time, he received a resounding standing ovation from everyone in the room.

“You have always cared about this city, just like we do, and we appreciate everything that you have done for Santa Maria,” Patino added.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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