Foster, Quincey’s Shadow Manager In Hesperia & Upland, Departs Colton

(March 15) COLTON–Rod Foster, who held key administrative positions with four cities in San Bernardino County, including a just-concluded three year stint as city manager in Colton, has departed to become city manager in the Orange County municipality of Laguna Niguel.
Foster, who worked for the city of Chino early in his career in a mid-level management position, served as the de-facto city manager with the cities of Hesperia and Upland, though he was not officially elevated to that position, instead being designated at the assistant city manager in both the City of Progress and the City of Gracious Living, as Hesperia and Upland are known.
As deputy city manager in Hesperia, Foster was temporarily elevated to  interim city manager in 2001 following the departure of David Berger as city manager there. At that time, Robb Quincey, representing Western Water, had sought to convince the Hesperia City Council to sell off its water division to that company. The council declined to make that sale, but was so impressed with Quincey’s presentation that its members hired him to serve as city manager, despite Quincey having no previous municipal management experience.
For four years, Foster mentored Quincey, his boss, in how to run a city. When Upland, led by its then-mayor John Pomierski, equally impressed by Quincey’s outward appearance, lured him away from Hesperia to become city manager, Quincey insisted upon Upland hiring Foster as his next-in-command. A week after Quincey’s arrival in Upland, Foster signed on with Upland, where, for the next four years, he essentially ran that city. In November 2009, Colton hired Foster as city manager.
Foster’s value as a public administrator was starkly illustrated by his absence from Upland. After he departed, the Upland ship of state foundered and in 2011, Pomierski was indicted, and then pleaded guilty to bribery charges in 2012. Quincey followed Pomierski into infamy, being unceremoniously shown the door by the Upland City Council two months after Pomierski’s indictment. He has since been criminally charged by the district attorney’s office with  several felonies, including unlawful misappropriation of public money, gaining personal benefit from an official contract, and giving false testimony under oath. The case against him is still being pursued.
Foster, on the other hand, has been given accolades for his performance as a public administrator.
Though Colton ranks 13th in population among San Bernardino County’s 24 cities with 52,154 residents, it boasts the seventh largest overall budget of the county’s municipalities, taking in during 2012-13 $130,256,698 through all of its funds and spending $132,088,336 through those funds, including $34,021,995 in revenues into the general fund and $33,640,484 in expenditures from the general fund. Colton is the only city in San Bernardino County with its own electrical utility, and as such, has a more elaborate operation than many of the county’s cities. Though the size of the city’s payroll has decreased in recent years, it still boasts 254 full time employees.
Foster came into Colton at an extremely difficult and challenging time, several months after the departure of former city manager Daryl Parrish, who left Colton to become city manager with the city of Covina, taking with him the city’s finance director, Dilu DeAlwis. Shortly after their departure, the council learned that confident budget projections Parrish and DeAlwis had made previously were in error and that the city in fact had a $5.8 million deficit.
Foster immediately set about imposing several rounds of belt tightening, including substantial layoffs and salary and benefit cuts for remaining employees. This triggered virulent personal attacks on Foster, who with aplomb blunted and deflected those challenges by imposing upon himself an even heftier salary reduction than was being assessed against the rest of city staff.
He energetically pursued state and federal grants, even as the economy was contracting, consolidated city departments, radically reduced spending out of the city’s general fund, and beefed up the city’s general fund reserves from the $50,000 contained therein in 2009 to $2.3 million at present.
He also overcame the disadvantage of having to manage a city that was being ruled by a sharply divided city council, which involved a 4-3 ruling coalition headed by former mayor Kelly Chastain. In 2010, Chastain was defeated by former Colton Community Development Director David Zamora, who had been a casualty of Foster’s staff downsizing.  This put Zamora into political ascendency, but Foster deftly made himself indispensible to Zamora, as the city continued in its effort to turn a corner in stabilizing its finances. When David Zamora died in the summer of 2011 and was succeeded by his wife, Sara, Foster maintained his status as the technocrat leading the city.
That job was taking a toll on Foster, however, who was often working 50 to 56 hours per week to stay abreast of the challenges that continue to dog Colton. It was known that he was looking to find another city manager assignment more than 14 months ago.
“We’re losing a good administrator,” said councilman Frank Gonzales, who returned to the council in 2010, after last having served in 1994. Gonzales was first elected to the council in 1966 and was mayor of Colton in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
“It’s been a wonderful journey,” Foster told the city council at his official farewell to the city last week. “Thank you for having faith in me and for the opportunity to serve.” Foster’s last day with Colton was yesterday.
In Laguna Niguel, where there were 65 applicants for the city manager’s post, Foster will be paid an annual salary of $220,000, a 6 percent increase over his self-imposed reduced salary in Colton.

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