Greg Nyhoff, an assistant city manager for Colorado Springs, Colo., will take over as city manager of Modesto starting June 1, Mayor Jim Ridenour announced Tuesday.
Nyhoff, 48, oversees a range of departments in Colorado Springs, including public works, parks, recreation and cultural services, planning and community development, and a municipal airport serving 2 million passengers a year. Colorado Springs is a city of just more than 400,000 population and home to the Air Force Academy and the U.S. Olympic team training center.
The Modesto council approved the hiring on a 6-0 vote during a closed session before Tuesday's regular meeting. Councilman Garrad Marsh was late to the session and did not vote, Ridenour said.
Nyhoff and the city agreed to a three-year contract paying him a base salary of $195,000 a year. His annual salary when hired in Colorado Springs in July 2006 was reported to be $130,000.
Nyhoff has 22 years' experience in public administration. A city of Modesto news release credited him with having a strong background in planning, growth management, economic development, finance and municipal utilities management.
"His qualifications are outstanding," Ridenour said. "He has the qualifications to do a good job in Modesto."
The decision came down to two finalists, Nyhoff and acting City Manager Jim Niskanen. The interim manager will continue in that role and keep Nyhoff updated on city business until June 1, officials said.
"He was a strong candidate," Ridenour said of Niskanen. "That is why it was such a tough decision to make."
Nyhoff said he gave notice to his employer Tuesday afternoon. He and his wife, Cindy, have made three visits to Modesto in recent months, he said. They have two teen-age sons and a daughter attending the University of California at San Diego.
"We as a family believe there is great opportunity in California," he said by phone Tuesday night. "When I came to Modesto, I was very impressed with the downtown, and there are a lot of attractive neighborhoods. There are good corporate partners and a great arts and entertainment movement going on."
The Denver native was the city manager of Fountain, Colo., for eight years before going to work in Colorado Springs. Fountain is a city of 21,000 about eight miles from Colorado Springs and received an All-American City Award in 2002.
Before that, he was city manager in Montague, Mich. He also was operations manager at the Highlands Ranch Metropolitan District, a local government for the 22,000-acre Highlands Ranch master-planned community with 90,000 residents near Denver.
Nyhoff and another assistant city manager vied for the city manager's job in Colorado Springs, but the position went to an outside candidate in November. He said he applied for the Modesto position because he always has been on a city manager career path.
"I matched up quite well with Modesto," he said, referring to his experience managing city departments, with economic development, and overseeing water, waste-water and electrical utilities. He noted that Modesto and Colorado Springs are going through similar problems with budget shortfalls and home foreclosures.
"Our housing developments here have come to a stop," he said.
Nyhoff will succeed former City Manager George Britton, who served from March 2005 until retiring in January.
Modesto used a new approach to interview the top candidates selected during the five-month recruitment process. Candidates were required to interview with three panels: a group of city department directors, a panel of community members and the City Council. The process was closed to the public.
Councilwoman Kristin Olsen said they chose the strongest candidate.
"I think he will bring a tremendous passion, energy and experience to the city of Modesto," she said, adding that Nyhoff talked of instilling a customer-driven approach to serving the public at City Hall.
During Tuesday night's meeting, Niskanen thanked the council for the opportunity to manage the city during the transition.
"It has been a wonderful experience; it certainly has been a learning experience," he said, receiving applause from city staff.
On another matter Tuesday night, the council postponed a decision to appoint members and approve bylaws for the districting commission. Modesto is moving toward electing council members by district in November 2009 and the commission will draw proposed boundaries for the districts.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.