After seven years at Gilroy’s helm, City Administrator Tom Haglund will depart to become general manager of the Tuolumne Utilities District in Sonora in the Mother Lode country where he has kept a second home for years. It’s a dream job as he moves closer to retirement.
His last day will be Oct. 16. That also will be the first day of the rest of Gilroy’s life; the choice of who will succeed Tom is critical.
Right now, it’s time to sincerely thank Tom for his diligent, difficult work in guiding the city through its worst economic crisis. Hard decisions had to be made, including the laying off of dozens of city employees. With the city council, Tom made the tough recommendations and followed through.
His foresight in seeing the financial crisis coming and his leadership in convincing and preparing the council to meet it head on kept the city afloat while others went under.
That is Tom Haglund’s legacy in Gilroy and something for which all citizens should be grateful; it could have been so very much worse absent Tom’s skills, leadership, resolve and backbone.
As a result, the city continues to be in good shape financially, some obvious needs notwithstanding.
Tom was hired at time of deep fractures on the council and found a way to bring it together and get things done. Were a survey to be taken of the City Council members Tom worked for, our bet is that the overwhelming majority would give him high marks.
It was during the bad times that Tom’s skills and leadership came to the fore and served this city and its citizens well. He was indeed the right man for the times.
Along the way, other things lagged and languished. Frustrations among residents and the business community were palpable and in some cases hostile. Tom, although walking point for the council’s policies, took a lot of heat, some of it perhaps deserved and some of it surely not.
The recent booking of elderly investors on charges of not keeping old structures up to code was an embarrassment, not least because the city let the problem fester for 20 years while making arguably ineffective efforts to contact property owners. Turning them into the bad guys was a bad call from City Hall where Tom is in charge, and it sent a shiver through the city’s merchants.
But there is more. The business community, downtown and elsewhere, is fed up with the seeming arrogance of the city staff over strident sign ordinances, when permits are needed for projects, and when iconic buildings such as the Hall’s store at the city’s main downtown intersection are stuck in renovation limbo for years.
That the permit process can take up to two years is unacceptable. That city inspectors made mistakes is unacceptable. That the city pays more attention to raising taxes than fixing the downtown is unacceptable. That a code enforcement officer doesn’t know the difference between free speech and breaking the law is unacceptable.
There is a sense in the community that while many city employees are hard working, dedicated public servants, others are pay-bloated bureaucrats who do as little as possible and don’t give two hoots about the public—some even rail at being called public servants. That tone is set at the top. And it must change.
In the next City Administrator, Gilroy needs someone who’s as good at numbers as Tom Haglund, someone who demands that customers come first, someone who knows the needs of residents and businesses, is involved with the community and does not see the government and the citizens as adversaries.
We thank Tom for his dedicated service to Gilroy and wish him all the best in the Mother Lode.