Last month I covered our very ambitious Fiscal Year 2019/20 Workplan, which includes a tremendous amount of investment in the City’s local infrastructure, in public safety facilities, and in public amenities. We are already out paving streets and activating the programs funded in this year’s new budget. I also mentioned that we are on the verge of adopting our new City General Plan (updating policies relating to land use, transportation, economic development, conservation, open space, health & equity, infrastructure and more). And our new Indio Downtown Specific Plan is on track to be adopted in September. I hope you might take a few minutes to look at the material available online on these two important plans that define the Indio we aspire to be in the future.
This month I thought I would do a change of pace and say a few words about the great team of paid City officials the City Council and I get to work with here at City Hall. We have a very loyal, engaged staff of roughly 270 employees in Indio. About 124 are in the Police Department, and another 47 work in the Indio Water Authority Department. The rest of the employees work in a variety of relatively small departments, directed by the following Department Directors:
Rob Rockwell, Assistant City Manager/Finance Director – Rob has been with the City now for 9 years. Prior to that, he served in the Budget and Finance functions for Riverside County. Rob has done a remarkable job now for many years steering Indio thru tough economic times, and is now helping us turn the corner into a more robust economy. Rob is also entrusted with the role of covering for the City Manager in my absence. Our financial statements win accounting awards every year. He is a real pro and his quarterly financial reports are a good read. They will make you feel good about the financial oversight we enjoy under Rob’s leadership.
Mike Washburn, Police Chief – Chief Washburn was hired about a 3 years ago, so I do not get to claim credit for his hiring. But I am constantly grateful that we have such an accomplished Police professional in charge of this City’s Police operations. Chief Washburn came to us following 30 years of increasingly responsible service in the City of Seattle. He has worked in virtually every aspect of Police management and has done a great job assembling one of the best Police management teams I have ever seen. He cares deeply about his staff and, as you know, our Police Department does an extraordinary job in fostering trust and safety in this community. We have a top caliber department from the top to the bottom.
Tim Wassil, Public Works Director – Tim gets credit for the monumental capital improvement plan that has been carried out the last few years. He has been Public Works Director for 4 years, having previously worked in the same capacity in Indian Wells. Our Public Works/Engineering function is very lightly staffed, but this is a small team that gets big things done! Tim and his team are tireless in their pursuit of these projects – streets, parks, median landscaping, street lights, government buildings, vehicle maintenance, storm water, traffic signals, and on and on. We handle 33 square miles of City with this small team. Tim and his team are exceptional.
Kevin Snyder, Community Development Director – Kevin joined us this year, having moved here from Washington State (Auburn) and Fairfield, California. He is a very experienced Director with certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). He leads another small team consisting of highly talented and dedicated Planners, Building Inspectors, and Managers. He has not only brought our General Plan to fruition, but he and his team are busy working to process new development, expand our cultural arts programs, enhance housing programs, and much more. In less than a year, we have made great progress under Kevin’s guidance of a motivated, creative staff.
Terry Deeringer , Human Resources Director – Terry came to the City from the City of LaQuinta 3 years ago. Her focus is on recruiting and retaining quality employees. She is our Talent Director! As indicated above, this is a small but mighty cast of co-workers who truly care about Indio. Many live here, went to school here, or just love the community. It is Terry and my obligation to make sure these caring people know how much we appreciate them. Your statements of appreciation, which we often receive, a big reward for our team. By the same token, when you see improvement needed, Terry and all of our Department Directors are eager to hear from you.
Trish Rhay, Indio Water Authority General Manager – As you know, we benefit in Indio to have such a solid, well-managed Water Department. These IWA employees serve us 24/7 and operate a very reliable system of clean water. We were thrilled to have Trish join us a couple months ago, having gained years of high level experience in Seattle, Washington and in Beverly Hills and San Bernardino. She and her managers, supervisors, technical and administrative staff operate at a state-of-the-art level. Service to customers is the overriding goal of this dedicated crew.
Carl Morgan, Economic Development Director – Just as Terry supports our employee population, Carl’s mission is to support our business community and, in doing so, seek to provide residents with jobs, shopping opportunity, and revenue growth. The revenue, of course, pays for our streets, Police, Fire, parks and other services. Carl’s role, therefore, is key to our city’s strategic goals. Indio has many new opportunities right now, as those who do business investment are increasingly interested in what the Indio market has to offer. The entire East Coachella Valley has opportunity. Carl and his small team make sure we put Indio into a position to succeed in competing for businesses and business investment. Carl came to Indio after years of work in his field in Long Beach and San Diego County.
Ian Cozens, Information Technology Director – Ian was recently promoted into this position. He has served us for 6 years, following great experience in the private sector. Ian manages a team of staff with a variety of impressive IT skills. In all candor, our City had not kept up with technological upgrades thru the years of the downturn. Ian and team are diligently implementing software systems that will improve our financial, personnel, public safety communications, development planning & permitting and public record-keeping capabilities. These upgrades will significantly improve our efficiency in serving the public.
Sabdi Sanchez, City Clerk Administrator – Sabdi worked previously for the City of Colton. We were blessed when she came to the Desert 18 months ago to take over the day-to-day workload associated with our important City Clerk function. Cynthia Hernandez is our elected City Clerk and retains certain oversight responsibilities, but retired from the day-to-day role a few years ago. Professionally, Sabdi is a Certified City Clerk and does a great job with our formal record-keeping, agenda preparation and elections processes.
Scott Trujillo, Deputy City Manager – Despite his youthful exterior(!), Scott Trujillo is one of our most experienced Indio staff. And most caring. He has worked in several City departments, and was a natural internal candidate for promotion to the Deputy City Manager role when the position was created a year ago. Scott not only provides daily administrative support to the City Manager, he also oversees (along with the extraordinary Jim Curtis) the City’s Community Services program, and our technology and marketing functions. He also administers the Animal Services contract with Riverside County. With Rob Rockwell and Scott Trujillo, I would match the quality of my City Manager’s Office staff with any city!
Robert Fish, Division Fire Chief – Our City contracts with Riverside County and CalFire for fire and emergency medical service. We receive superior quality from these hard-working, highly-skilled men and women. They may be contract employees (not included in the 270 employee count I mentioned above), but they are in every way an important part of our Indio team. I am honored to be associated with Chief Fish and his dedicated team. Chief Fish was promoted into his current role only a few months ago. We were delighted, as he is an excellent leader and promoter of our excellent Indio-based Fire contingent.
Roxanne Diaz, City Attorney – Roxanne is appointed by the City Council. We contract with the firm of Richards, Watson & Gershon. I was fortunate to have worked with Roxanne and her RWG colleagues when I was City Manager in Beverly Hills many years ago (when she was very young!). One of my inducements to come to Indio was knowing what a quality firm RWG is, and what a pro Roxanne is. They handle our day-to-day legal work and most of our litigation and claims management with precision and wisdom. The City Attorney is a very key advisor to a City Council and staff. The public does not see this every day, but we do!
So, having explained how good this team of managers is, you may understand better what a simple job I have! I am very fortunate to have inherited or assembled this group. I do not mean to focus only on the department heads. In the future, I will make it a point to highlight the other very special people on our team, at all levels, who spend their careers – their adult lives really – in service to this community. It has always been my source of energy that I get to go to work every day and benefit by association with these appropriately proud public officials. For all the superlatives that I have lavished in this column, we all know we are not perfect. We all know that there are improvements we need, and there are opportunities we do not want to miss. Please know that Indio is our mission and we think that is very important work!