Turlock losing another top official after city manager’s abrupt departure

Turlock City Hall
Turlock City Hall Modesto Bee

Turlock is losing another top city official.

Administrative Services Director Kellie Jacobs-Hunter turned in her resignation Thursday, stating she would be leaving Sept. 26 for another government job. This comes after Tuesday’s abrupt departure of City Manager Bob Lawton, who had been with Turlock for 13 months.

Jacobs-Hunter has been with Turlock since March 2015. She will be starting a new job Oct. 3 with Atwater, which will greatly reduce the daily commute for the Merced County resident.

Municipal Services Director and interim City Manager Michael Cooke said the two departures are not related and it is a coincidence that Jacobs-Hunter submitted her resignation the same week Lawton resigned.

“She’s been a great worker,” Cooke said Friday. “It’s always sad to lose good employees, but we will find a way to work our way through it and be fine. That’s not to say we won’t miss Kellie.”

As administrative services director, Jacobs-Hunter oversees finance, information technology and human resources. She has been frank about Turlock’s challenges with its roughly $40 million general fund budget, including clearly and consistently stating them during City Council meetings.

The previous council under Mayor Gary Soiseth essentially lived beyond its means by approving spending that has drawn down the fund’s reserves. Soiseth lost his re-election bid in November to longtime Councilwoman Amy Bublak, and the five-member council has three new members.

The current general fund budget includes cuts to police and fire and other departments that rely on it, but public safety accounts for about 75 percent of the fund’s spending. The council faces more challenges with the general fund, including rising pension costs and the outcomes of its negotiations with the city’s labor groups.

Jacobs-Hunter wrote in her resignation letter that “(i)t’s been an honor and privilege to serve the (City) Council and residents of Turlock.” She added she would miss the city’s employees, whom she called devoted public servants, and that she had been “blessed” to have been part of the city’s “family.”

The 52-year-old said Friday that it was a difficult decision but it was a quality-of-life decision. She said she applied for the job of Atwater’s finance director several months ago.

Lawton and city officials have not discussed the reasons for his resignation but instead focused on how Turlock had begun the work on fixing the general fund during his tenure.

Kevin Valine covers local government, homelessness and general assignment for The Modesto Bee. He is a graduate of San Jose State University and grew up in San Jose.