City hires $100K community development liaison

Lee Butler

The City of Gilroy brings on a new hire from the City of San Jose planning department to take on the role of Development Center Manager, a newly created position that largely deals with fostering development within the city.

Lee Butler, 34, begins working in Gilroy on June 18, bringing 11 years of experience in city planning to the position. 

“I think I’ll be able to bring around a lot of the skills from my position here in San Jose, and hopefully I’ll be able to bring some positive change for the residents and business in Gilroy,” Butler said. 

Butler out-shined all the other candidates, according to Rob Oneto of the Economic Development Corporation board and co-owner of Gilroy development consulting company Ruggeri-Jensen-Azar, who sat on the interviewing panel.

“I’m glad to say that the city, through their final interview process, chose Lee. He was, I think, the top candidate no question, and he immediately rose to the top of the pack,” Oneto said. 

Oneto was one of four people who served on the hiring panel, which included two community development managers from nearby cities, and Kristi Abrams, Gilroy’s community development director. The panel recommended their top choices after interviews, though the city made the final call on Butler.

The city received 42 applications total, according to LeeAnn McPhillips, human resources director. Of the nine candidates the panel interviewed, Oneto said that Butler rose above the others not only for his experience but for his “contagious enthusiasm.” 

The position is salaried and pays between $109,707 and $146,281, according to a flier on the job opening. Butler accepted the position May 25.

One of Butler’s main responsibilities will be to serve as an ombudsman to people pursing development in the city, and help people navigate a complicated city permitting process. He also work with other city departments to implement policies designed to help Gilroy attract and retain businesses. 

Butler will also play an active role in strategizing downtown revitalization, working closely with the Economic Development Corporation

Laurel Prevetti, Butler’s immediate supervisor at the planning department in San Jose, spoke highly of Butler, saying that Gilroy made an excellent choice in hiring him.

“He is the kind of person who can talk to an average person on the street as well as elected officials,” Prevetti said. “He’ll do a remarkable job.”

The position entails acting as a liaison between city officials and private developers to promote healthy development in all areas of Gilroy, including downtown. 

Beyond their initial discussion about the need for a new development position during their retreat in January, City Council members have not been a part of the hiring process whatsoever, according to Councilmen Dion Bracco and Bob Dillon.

City Administrator Tom Haglund, who made the final hiring decision, along with Abrams, said that Butler will bring a profusion of practical planning experience to the position. 

“Lee demonstrated an excitement and eagerness to jump right in and get to work that was impressive,” Haglund said via Christina Turner, the city’s finance director. “Lee is highly respected and we look forward to having him on our team,” he said. 

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