Nearly 21 years to the day that Santa Maria City Manager Rick Haydon first walked through the doors of City Hall, he announced that at the end of the year he will walk through those doors for the last time.
On Aug. 21, 1996, Haydon came to the city as an assistant city manager, he rose to become the city’s top administrator and on Dec. 5, will retire as Santa Maria’s 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,” an emotional Haydon told the Santa Maria Times on Wednesday.
Haydon has been a public servant for 30 years.
“I’ve been at this thing for a long time and I have an opportunity to retire,” said Haydon, who will turn 55 at the end of this month.
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 which included the death of an on-duty police officer, and the resignation of then-Police Chief Danny Macagni.
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 the city's operating departments.
“I think the results show it. We have a growing community, residential, commercial, retail. It is very satisfying to know that you’ve made a difference,” Haydon said.
While in the city’s top management role, Haydon also oversaw the construction of a new police station and a new public library, which he calls, “the jewel of the Central Coast.”
Haydon said he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, especially his wife and children, once he has retired. He is also grateful for the opportunity to retire now, so he can spend time with and care for his ailing mother.
“I want to be able to enjoy life,” he said. “I haven’t been able to take a vacation in a long time and I am looking forward to spending more time with my family.”
During his time with the city of Santa Maria there isn’t much he wasn’t able to do, but there are a few things he wished he could have been a part of.
“There are always things that you wish you could have accomplished,” Haydon said.
One of those things is expanding the city’s limits.
“I really wanted to spearhead the annexation process and increase the city’s footprint. That is something that I really wanted to do but didn’t have the dedicated time to do it. We are really landlocked. There is not much growth we can do,” Haydon said.
He has frequently said that for the city to increase its revenue it would have to grow.
“I think the natural tendency is to go to the east and duplicate what we are doing on the west of the city,” he said.
Haydon wouldn’t advocate for the city expanding its boundaries south toward Orcutt.
“I would think it is in the city’s best interest not to go south, but to go east,” he said.
Mayor Alice Patino described Haydon as personifying "the professional, dedicated civil servant.”
“People look to Rick for leadership in many situations. His outstanding managerial skills extend from budgeting, to human resources, to negotiations. His eye for detail and his ability to lead and manage have certainly helped the Santa Maria community to many accomplishments. He leads by example, often gives credit to others, and through many challenges we all have been very fortunate to benefit from his advice and talent,” she said.
“I am happy for him. He puts in a lot of long hours that nobody sees,” said Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada, after hearing Haydon’s announcement.
Haydon said that until his last day he'll be working to accomplish the city's goals.
“We are still going at 100 mph on a lot of projects,” Haydon said.
The city is in the midst of creating a strategic plan to address issues related to youth safety, there are still a few large development projects, including Enos Ranch to oversee and he has to get the city started on working on its new General Plan.
In the coming months, the Santa Maria City Council will be working to find Haydon’s replacement.
“I feel confident that I am turning the city over to good hands with the executive leadership team we have now,” Haydon said.