It’s a real travesty that two inept and egocentric City Council members, Jim Mosby and Victor Vega, could create a situation that causes the resignation of arguably the most effective city manager Lompoc has experienced.
Patrick Wiemiller came to town with grand expectations. When I spoke with him shortly after he arrived he was very enthusiastic about the opportunity. At the time I mentioned the hardest thing he would have to overcome would be a political mindset centered on ideas that were valid 30 years ago.
When asked what he viewed as accomplishments, he says sales tax revenue increases at nearly double the regional average and a dramatic improvement of police and fire department response times lead the list. Police Department outreach has improved from 20 events a year to over 100. This helps connect the department to the citizens they serve on a more personal level.
He used all the resources the community had to offer to try and make things better. There wasn’t enough money in the budget to help beautify the city, so he encouraged volunteer efforts to dress up parks and street medians. Thus, by spending a few General Fund dollars for supplies and reduced city labor he was able to multiply the impact 10-fold.
News articles explain how parks and ball fields have been restored with volunteer efforts. I witnessed 75 volunteers one Saturday morning helping to move several tons of stone to dress up a street median. None of this could have occurred unless the city manager empowered them to work on city property.
You may have seen work crews from the nearby federal prison cleaning up city property recently. This hasn’t happened under previous leadership, and by acquiring this resource he once again stretched a tight budget to accomplish necessary cleanup of parks and drainage ditches.
To say he inherited a budgetary mess would be an understatement. The Accounting Department was using an archaic system based on a 1980s software program, and budgets were simply a regurgitation of what had been approved in a previous budget cycle.
He changed all that and implemented a zero-based budget system, meaning each division started with zero dollars and had to justify their expenses and staffing. The first time was painful for division managers, but they worked through it, and because of his efforts overall city staffing has not increased under his watch. Instead, position allocations were shifted around to make things more efficient. Even though police and firefighter positions were increased and response times to critical emergencies were reduced he kept the overall citywide head count stable.
What would become the last budget he produced was an exercise in mediocrity by the above-mentioned council members. They held approval of the budget hostage for five months while they whined about several aspects. They even used information that proved to be false in their endeavor to make Wiemiller and his team look bad.
When their strategy was failing they resorted to evaluating his performance, with the veiled threat of termination three times in one year, a heretofore unheard-of abuse of power.
The citizens of Lompoc and the employees who serve you are the losers here. Whoever the council majority selects to replace him will have big shoes to fill.
But the bigger question is, why would anyone worthy of the job even apply, knowing he/she will be harassed if they don’t pander to the whims of an ego-driven council majority?