Monday evening marked the start of retiring Santa Maria City Manager Rick Haydon's goodbyes, as city leaders, employees, friends and family gathered at the Veterans Community Center to celebrate the longtime public servant during a special retirement dinner.

After more than two decades working to advance the City, Haydon will say farewell for the last time as City Manager after tonight’s city council meeting.

On Aug. 21, 1996, Haydon came to the city as an assistant city manager.

“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve the residents. I’ve personally made it a point to give 110 percent every day that I have been here,” Haydon said when he announced his retirement in August.

Haydon was brought to Santa Maria by then City Manager Tim Ness; he served as assistant city manager for 12 years before being promoted to City Manager in late 2011.

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

During the next several years, he worked to build a new executive management team and to change the culture of city government.

With the support of the city council, Haydon made significant progress in addressing public safety concerns, improving quality of life issues, and instituting a succession planning process throughout all operating departments.

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“Rick devoted himself toward improving the city and the community in the face of mounting financial pressures, especially in recent years,” said incoming City Manager Jason Stilwell.

The farewells will continue during the city council meeting, which will include a formal proclamation from the council thanking Haydon for his service to Santa Maria.

The Santa Maria City Council meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.

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

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City Government Reporter