Ambition & Opportunity Bring Luckino To 29 Palms

TWENTYNINE PALMS—(March 2) Frank Luckino, the well-traveled public official whose professional ambition three times induced him to leave high level positions with public entities along the Route 62 Corridor, is returning to take up the top staff position with a fourth. Last month the Twentynine Palms City Council unanimously voted to hire him to replace acting city manager Larry Bowden, effective March 23.
Some saw the hiring as a perfect marriage between a public administrator on the rise with a reputation for leaving his employers in the lurch to move on to other positions in the public sector and a city that has burned through four city managers in the past four years and eight in the past eleven years.
Luckino earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from West Liberty State College in West Virginia in 1992. He worked as a controller for several companies, including PACE Entertainment, Planet Hollywood International, and Gordon Biersch Restaurant Group. He also handled portfolio investment activity as an associate with Resource Connection.
His first significant venture into the public sector came a dozen years ago when he was hired as the director of fiscal services at Copper Mountain College in 2003. He bought a home in Yucca Valley and, with his wife Shannon, opened a mortgage loan office, Mojave Mortgage Group. He joined the Rotary Club and in 2004, he was elected to his first term on the Yucca Valley Town Council.
His experience on the politically powerful but only tokenly-remunerated town council exposed him to a multiplicity of governmental administrative issues. Newly alive to the possibilities of a career in public administration, he used the accruing leverage he had obtained to vault into a position as finance officer with the Hi-Desert Water District. In 2011, when he was offered a promotion to the position of assistant general manager/chief financial officer paying $139,000 in annual salary plus benefits, he resigned from the town council. At that point, he had enrolled at
Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was pursuing a Master’s Degree in public administration.
In May 2013, Luckino learned that the position of finance director with the city of Blythe, which paid between $94,000 and $117,000 per year, was open. He was further informed that the city manager’s position in the same Riverside County city on the banks of the Colorado River was also likely to open up later that year and that the finance director would stand a decent chance of assuming the city manager post. Luckino took the pay cut, resigning from the Hi-Desert Water District.
Luckino’s departure from the water district came as that entity was struggling with the financial challenges of having Yucca Valley comply with a state mandate to convert from its traditional septic systems to a sewer system in several phases over the next decade. Town voters in 2012 had voted down a sales tax measure put forth by town officials which those officials said would be primarily devoted to funding the sewer program.
Though his abandonment of Yucca Valley left the town in a bad way, his gamble in departing for Blyth paid off for him personally. By October 2013, he had his Master’s Degree in public administration and the Blythe City Council, torn over elevating him or city clerk Mallory Sutterfield to the position of interim city manager, in a closely split 3-2 vote chose Luckino.
He was subsequently made full-fledged city manager and Sutterfield was made assistant city manager. With his scheduled arrival in Twentynine Palms later this month, Luckino will shortly be making, on his own initiative, an abrupt departure from Blythe, the fourth such exodus in his public career.
He is moving into a position in Twentynine Palms where most of those holding it have limited longevity.
In May 2011, Richard Warne assumed the city manager’s post. One month shy of his two-year anniversary with the city, Warne was terminated without cause and given one year’s worth of pay to depart. The city brought in Joe. Guzzetta, the former director of the Joshua Basin Water District, to replace Warne. Guzzetta lasted only about half as long as Warne, until May 13, 2014. He too was given one year’s worth of pay as a severance. The city’s finance director, Ron Peck filled in for Guzzetta. On June 19, 2014, Andrew Takata, who was up to that point working as the interim city manager in Calexico, was hired to serve as Twentynine Palms City Manager. In November 2014, Takata abruptly resigned as city manager to become the chief of staff for San Bernardino County Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford. He was replaced by former Twentynine Palms High School Basketball Coach Larry Bowden, who was serving as the city’s recreation director.
Luckino will replace Bowden.

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