Four finalists for job: Fire Chief Rick Araiza named Interim City Manager

April 21, 2017
Santa Paula News

Rick Araiza has probably worn more hats than any other Santa Paula employee and now the Fire Chief/Building & Safety Director/Liaison has been named Interim City Manager.

The announcement was made at the April 17 City Council meeting; City Attorney John Cotti said Araiza’s contract would be revised with the same terms as those of Jaime Fontes, whose last day with the city was April 13.

Araiza thanked the council for the “confidence you’ve shown me and I just want to say I’m truly honored to sit as the interim city manager, no matter for how long or how short it is,” he occupies the first seat of the dais.

He also thanked his wife, Laura: “She knows,” how time-consuming the job will be for Araiza. “It’s an honor to be here and I hope to instill in the staff and the public,” enthusiasm at being part of the city.

“My family has been here since 1910,” and been business owners for more than 80 years.

“Santa Paula is on the cusp of doing great things and a new manager will bring us back,” to being a “vibrant, viable city” with a strengthened budget.

Araiza noted he would be available to the public: “I am at most events and will have a citywide newsletter to send out to give you an update on each department, I hope to do that on a biweekly basis.”

He also urged that the public “bear with us…we are moving forward, please bear with us and look at the overall picture of what is going to happen,” including growth that will help revitalize the city. “We’re on the cusp of real growth back to where we were.

“Thank you,” said Araiza, “for the confidence you’ve shown me…”

Fontes, the city manager since February 2010, stepped down after the council opted not to renew his contract. 

Araiza is a third-generation Santa Paulan and an attorney who joined the fire department as a volunteer firefighter in 1986. Ten years later he was hired as assistant chief and as full-time chief in 2006. 

His late father Oscar started a mechanic business in 1952, which became La Cabaña Mexican restaurant in 1974, a popular eater still family-owned and operated.

Cotti also said Monday that after the meeting the council will go behind closed doors to discuss the reportedly four finalists for the permanent city manager’s position. The council met before the meeting to discuss the finalists, whose identities have not been released.

Araiza and the city manager following him have their work cut out for them: the cleanliness of streets have become a major concern, roads and sidewalks are crumbling and other issues have created a culture of neglect that has disheartened the community and created low morale at City Hall.

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