Rod Foster, who previously served in the capacity of the top administrative, de facto top administrative or in senior administrative posts with four San Bernardino County cities, has returned to take up the top managerial position at a fifth county municipality.
On June 17, Foster will officially assume the city manager’s post in Rialto. He will replace Mike Story, who departed as city manager 18 months ago. A succession of acting managers, including several of the city’s department heads, have headed the city on an interim basis since December 2017.
“We are thrilled to have Rod lead our extraordinary City Hall team and build on the momentum we have created over the past several years,” Mayor Deborah Robertson said.
Foster’s municipal experience began three decades ago when he was hired into a mid-level management position with the City of Chino. His next move up the municipal managerial evolutionary chain was when he he was hired into a similar post in Hesperia, where he soon acceded to the post of deputy city manager. While in that position with 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 deeply impressed with Quincey’s presentation. Upon discovering that Quincey possessed a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate in public administration, the Hesperia city council’s members moved to hire 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 departed from The City of Progress and signed on with The City of Gracious Living, where, for the next four years, he essentially ran Upland while Quincey served as the staff’s figurehead and Pomierski’s hatchet man.
Foster’s value as a public administrator was starkly illustrated after he absented himself from Upland to take on the position of Colton city manager in 2009. In the months after his departure, with City Hall then under the care of Quincey, the Upland ship of state foundered. 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 was subsequently 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. In September 2014 three of those charges against Quincey were dismissed and a felony conviction on a single count of conflict of interest by a public officer was entered against him
Contrastingly, Foster was earning accolades for his performance as a public administrator in Colton, which while ranking 13th in population among San Bernardino County’s 24 cities, boasted the seventh largest overall budget of the county’s municipalities, and was as close to being a full-service city as any of the county’s municipal entities. Colton was one of only two San Bernardino County cities with its own electrical utility, and it had its own police, fire, water, water treatment and cemetery divisions. Though it had privatized its sanitation department in 1997, the city was nevertheless a self-sustaining urban unit in virtually every other sense. Significantly, it was host to the main campus of the county hospital, known as Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.
Foster took up the governmental reins in Colton at a difficult and challenging juncture in the city’s history, 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 prior to his departure.
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 ascendancy, but Foster deftly made himself indispensable 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 as mayor by his wife, Sara, Foster maintained his status as the consumate administrative virtuoso 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 continued to dog Colton. In February 2013 he departed Colton to take the position as city manager in the affluent Orange County community of Laguna Niguel, replacing Tim Casey, who at that point had been Laguna Niguel’s first and only city manager during its then-23-year history.
Slightly more than four years later, Foster departed Laguna Niguel in June 2017. He immediately moved into the position of chief of parish operations at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Dana Point.
Foster, who is fully vested in the State of California’s Public Employee Retirement System and has achieved retirement age, nevertheless has a reason to take on a lucrative public agency management post in that his 18-year-old son, Kyle, is headed to Louisiana State University, which will entail $28,627 out-of-state student tuition along with room and board costs roughly in the range of $19,000. Foster will be provided with a salary of $240,000 per year together with $85,000 in benefits, such that he will receive $325,000 in total annual compensation. He is being provided with 120 hours of vacation leave up front, with the addition of 10 hours per pay period thereafter. He is being given 120 hours of sick leave up front, with an accrual rate of 10 hours per month thereafter. He is allowed 140 hours of administrative leave per year. The council also consented to provide him with an $8,500 relocation reimbursement if he moves to San Bernardino County and within 25 miles of City Hall within two years.
Foster earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of La Verne. He also has studied in the executive program at the University of California Berkeley, where he earned a certificate in strategic management of public organizations.
Foster will relieve Fire Chief Sean Grayson, who was appointed to serve as interim city manager in December 2018.