Camarena takes over as Lindsay interim city manager

Bret Harmon, city clerk, deputy city clerk leave Lindsay, city services director Mike Camarena assumes interim city manager post

By Paul Myers

EXETER – Mike Camarena thought the rest of his career would be spent directing city services in Lindsay. As of Jan. 17 he was put in charge of city hall as interim city manager.

At the Lindsay City Council’s Jan. 14 meeting, the council voted 4-0 to appoint Camarena, while saying goodbye to finance director and interim city manager Bret Harmon. Harmon left Lindsay to become the director of administrative services for the city of Sanger. 

Mayor pro tem Laura Cortes and mayor Pam Kimball gave their heartfelt goodbyes during the meeting.

“I want to say thank you to Bret…for the time that you’ve worked here. I’m a firm believer that we are put where we are needed even if it’s for short periods of time,” Cortes said while fighting back tears. “I thank you for your patience, your kindness and your perseverance… and I wish you the best of luck.” 

In a prepared statement, Kimball expressed how pivotal Harmon’s experience was when it came to righting the city’s finances.

“It was with considerable sadness that I received Mr. Harmon’s letter of resignation as our finance director and was also sorry when he withdrew his application for city manager…his expertise was extremely important to the campaign to pass Measure O which was important to establishing a much needed revenue source…He has earned my trust and respect. I’m certain he will be successful in his career wherever he goes,” Kimball said.

Harmon had worked for Lindsay for three years as finance director, and took over as interim city manager when Bill Zigler retired last year. In his time Harmon had found ways to reduce the city’s internal debt, streamlined audits and relinquished the operations at the McDermont Field House to a private operation.

Stepping in his place, Camarena said that his job has become much busier but his years in city services has helped prepare him.

“Well, coming off the holidays, things tends to slow down…but it hasn’t been too bad yet,” Camarena said “Part of the benefit of being with the city for so long is that you have an idea of what’s happening.”

However, Camarena is walking into a less than fully staffed administration. During the same Jan. 14 meeting the council also voted 4-0, with councilmember Rosaena Sanchez absent, to appoint Juana Espinoza as interim city clerk. 

Jack Urquhart, who was appointed as city clerk last year resigned in December. Lindsay continued on with their deputy city clerk until they submitted their resignation notice effective Jan. 17. Espinoza is a Lindsay native and moved from the private sector at Bank of the Sierra corporate offices in accounting.

“She is fitting in well and has not had any problems with any responsibilities she has been given. It is a huge find,” Camarena said.

Camarena added that she is also working in part as a finance director in addition to city clerk. Harmon had taught her their finance system.

“She has done an exceptional job so far and she is a quick study,” Harmon said.

Camarena said that Urquhart had left for a different opportunity, and Harmon gave a tradition two weeks notice. 

According to a staff report from Jan. 14, the city council is currently negotiation with an individual for city manager, with their appointment in the coming months. Espinoza will serve as city clerk until the new city manager submits a name for a full time clerk. It is presumed that Espinoza will fill in as finance director.

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