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Firebaugh leader is new Livingston city manager

LIVINGSTON -- The City Council filled a void in the leadership of its city as members appointed a new city manager during Friday's special meeting.

Jose Antonio Ramirez, 39, was selected as city manager on a 4-1 vote. He thinks there's room for Livingston to improve its standing in the Central Valley.

Councilman Frank Vierra, who opposed the release of the last city manager, voted against the employment of Ramirez, who is the city manger of Firebaugh and expects to transition into his Livingston position in mid-August.

Before becoming city manager of Firebaugh, Ramirez was the city manager of Orange Cove in Fresno County at age 28, and was told he was the youngest city manager in California. As the city manager of Firebaugh for the past eight years, Ramirez has earned a base salary of $100,000 a year.

Ramirez's pay in Livingston will be significantly less than that of the last city manager, according to the contract, which show's his base salary will be $122,000 a year with an automobile allowance of $350 a month.

Former City Manager Richard Warne, who signed a mutual release agreement with the city in 2010 to end his tenure, made a base salary of $138,000 a year in Livingston and $113,266.55 in severance when he left his job. In April, he was appointed city manager of Twentynine Palms in San Bernardino County. His new position pays him a base salary of $171,500 a year.

Although city officials classify Warne's departure as a mutual agreement, it's commonly understood that he was pushed out by the new council after a 2010 recall sparked by steep water rate increases changed the political landscape of the city. The rate hikes have since been rolled back.

Ramirez said he's OK with the decreased base salary and hopes to bring jobs to Livingston by focusing on creating an industrial park, which could attract manufacturing and food processing plants.

Ramirez is familiar with Livingston's past and said he hopes to use his 12 years of experience as a city manager to run the city in a smooth fashion.

Vickie Lewis, who took charge as interim city manager for Livingston after Warne left, will continue to serve in the role until she retires July 15, she said. Lewis said she expects Ramirez to have a positive impact on the city.

"I think he'll be good for our community," Lewis said, adding that Ramirez brings a lot of "pluses" to the table.

During Friday's meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Margarita Aguilar said she's glad the Latino community will be better able to communicate with the city manager now that Ramirez will fill the role. She repeated her words in Spanish.

Ramirez, who was picked out of 37 candidates, said he enjoys Livingston's diversity.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsun-star.com.

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