Kevin Valine

City has new leadership at the top

Joe Lopez, Modesto deputy city manager who has been appointed acting city manager is pictured Tuesday evening (04-04-17) in the basement chambers at Tenth Street Place.
Joe Lopez, Modesto deputy city manager who has been appointed acting city manager is pictured Tuesday evening (04-04-17) in the basement chambers at Tenth Street Place.

It’s now official.

The City Council unanimously appointed Deputy City Manager Joe Lopez as acting city manager Tuesday to replace Jim Holgersson, who departed last week after nearly three years as Modesto’s top administrator.

Lopez, 41, came to Modesto in January 2012 as human resources director. He later served as administrative services director and as a deputy city manager for the past couple of years. Before coming here, he had been a human resources manager for Sacramento County.

Mayor Ted Brandvold said Modesto will conduct a nationwide search for its next city manager, which he expects will take at least six months. Lopez said he plans to apply for the job, saying it’s a career goal to be a city manager and it would be an honor to do so for Modesto.

The official word on Holgersson’s departure is that he and Brandvold – who took office in February 2016 – had different visions for Modesto. The city announced Friday that Holgersson would receive $128,852 under the terms of his separation agreement. That is equal to the severance pay he was entitled to under his contract.

And Holgersson’s final paycheck Friday was for $26,331, which included about two weeks of salary plus the cash-out of his unused leave time. This is according to the settlement agreement, which the city released this week. (His annual salary had been $220,889.)

The amounts Holgersson received are before taxes and other deductions.

Modesto has had turnover among its top managers recently. In addition to Holgersson, Fire Chief Sean Slamon left last week for another job. And Brent Sinclair, who had been the city’s other deputy city manager, retired in late December.

Operations Division Chief Alan Ernst is serving as interim fire chief, and Assistant Police Chief Rick Armendariz has been serving as interim deputy city manager for about a month, with a focus on the city’s Great Safe Neighborhoods Initiative. He also has kept some of his duties as assistant chief.

“I don’t have any concerns,” Brandvold said about the turnover. “These are all qualified people. They are very familiar with our city.”

In other city news:

Those interested in the city center will want to attend the Downtown Modesto Partnership’s first State of Downtown Modesto event April 14 at the Foster Family Theater at the Gallo Center for the Arts from 8 to 10 a.m. The event is free, but seating is limited. Those interested are asked to RSVP at by Monday.

Partnership CEO Josh Bridegroom will give an update on his organization’s effort to create a cleaner and safer downtown, as well as talk about goals for 2017. The partnership has been operating for a year. Its downtown ambassadors have picked up trash, removed graffiti, power-washed sidewalks and been an extra set of eyes and ears.

Police Chief Galen Carroll will offer business and property owners advice on what is called environmental design to prevent property crime. There also will be a panel discussion about downtown’s culture, cuisine and community with Bob Barzan, former executive director of the Modesto Art Museum; Jeff Brown, co-owner of Commonwealth restaurant; and Ruhi Sheikh, co-founder of Mod Shop, the popular indie crafters market held the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316