Today is a historical day for Lindsay’s interim City Manager and Director of Finance, Bret Harmon, as it’s his last day working inside Lindsay’s City Hall. \Harmon has chosen to further his career as the Director of Administrative Services for the City of Sanger. The Recorder took some time to sit down with Harmon to see where he thinks his new position will take him and the hopes he has for the City of Lindsay after his departure.
“I’m an Oregon boy,” said Harmon about his upbringing. “After finishing high school, I went to Brigham Young University in Hawaii which was a pretty cool place to go to school for a year. At the end of that time, I left and went to a church mission in Japan. I was in the Kobe, Osaka area. While I was there, I transferred to Brigham Young University in Provo, and finished my undergrad and master’s degree, before coming to California to work at Muni Services doing sales tax consulting and other revenue consulting for cities across the state and now throughout the country. I did that for about 14 years before I came to Lindsay.”
Harmon landed a job working for the City of Lindsay in 2017 as the Director of Finance. He started with Lindsay on January 1, 2017, and his final day with the city is today, January 17, 2020.
“I had looked at leaving Muni Services a few times because I eventually wanted to get back into a city role,” said Harmon. “I had planned to only be there for about two years, but every time I would get close to leaving there would be a promotion or opportunity or something would happen. I got to the point where I was up to the Vice President of Client Services and if I didn’t change I wouldn’t have had enough time to make it worthwhile or accomplish the goals I had there. So I started looking around for somewhere closer to home. I’ve got four kiddos at home and didn’t want to uproot them necessarily, and this job in Lindsay came open and I said ‘Let’s give it a try’ and jumped in.”
As the Director of Finance, Harmon held many responsibilities, but the biggest ones that came to mind was the budgeting and audit processes the city undergoes every year.
“The big duties with Director of Finance are the budget and audit,” said Harmon. “Those are kind’ve the two cycles the city goes through every year. Budget for six months and then in audit for six months, and they just kind’ve rotate through the year. In addition to that, you oversee the staff who handles the accounts payable and payroll, because everybody likes to get paid. The department includes the billing for utilities and handles those payments.”
Harmon had nothing but wonderful things to say about the city staff he worked with. He stated they have helped him along since the beginning and he truly values the passion each employee puts into their work.
“There is really good staff in there,” said Harmon. “They have been life savers since the beginning. They’ve really been able to handle things. Sandy Perez and she’s been here since she was in high school, started as a 14-year-old intern, and she has just continued, so she knows her way around and really knows what she’s doing. She really has a good grasp on how to handle everything. She’s now the Administrative Supervisor that works under Juana Espinoza, who is the new Finance and Accounting Manager.”
Harmon said he has really enjoyed his time in Lindsay, but knew he wanted to take his skills elsewhere. When he saw the opening for Administrative Services Director in Sanger, he said he prayed and prayed about it, hoping he would hear an answer on which direction he should go. His answer came and it was clear the right decision would be to take the position in Sanger.
“Sanger was a client of mine when I worked at Muni Services, and it’s within a commute distance from home,” said Harmon. “Tim Chapa is the City Manager there and I really enjoyed working with him when he was a client, and it’s an opportunity to get into a city size that I like. They serve, as far as population range, about 26,000 people. I found that I like smaller communities, and that 26,000 to 40,000 are ones that are able to be pretty self-sufficient and have enough resources to handle all of the things that you may want to do or dream up.”
With a new position comes new responsibilities, and Harmon is ready to tackle them all. He said he will still be handling finances but other aspects of city services will now become something he oversees.
“Administrative Services typically includes finance and IT, and sometimes HR,” said Harmon. “In this case, it doesn’t include HR, it’s just finance and IT. I’m grateful to have an IT consultant who will provide most of that, and I’ll be working with them to make sure it meets the city’s needs.”
Since he will be departing from the City of Lindsay, it’s only obvious someone will need to replace him in the vacant position. Luckily, the city is currently in negotiations with a person who will potentially replace Harmon in the near future. He placed emphasis on his hopes whomever takes the position will continue to keep close relations with city staff and other agencies that help the city in its daily operations.
“The connection with staff, to me, is really important,” said Harmon. “I hope there has been some type of legacy that people can see and feel that I really cared about the staff. I want someone who is really going to take care of them. It’s an interesting role being someone who is trying to care for a community that often doesn’t understand what you do and can sometimes see you as a problem more than a help, but you’re still putting all of your heart and effort into it. So there is not always that recognition from the community, acknowledging what you are doing for them, and going through that and putting yourself through it can sometimes wear on a person.
“We have many (employees) who have been here well over 20 years, so they obviously really care about the community. My hope is that the next manager is going to see that and really help them grow and develop more. I’d love for them to continue with the street projects we have going. We’re finally at a spot where we can do around $1.5 million in street projects a year moving forward. I hope that they are able to work with other the governments with Tulare County, with TCAG, with the state, with all of the other organizations that feed or assist or aide the city and keep those relationships strong. I hope they continue to have good relations with the unions and their employees and I hope they continue the roundtable groups we’ve set up.”
When it came to what type of person he thought would fit in the role of City Manager, he stated he’d like to see someone in the position who’s gutsy.
“Someone that is gutsy,” said Harmon about the type of person he felt would make a good City Manager. “They need to be confident in finance for sure. Someone that wants to make Lindsay a place that can always be proud of itself. This is a really cool town with really neat history and people who care about that history and each other. If someone can see that and really appreciate it, (that) is one that I think will be good to be here.”
Before he leaves the city as the City Manager, Harmon has some departing words for the City of Lindsay and its community.
“There is still some bumpy roads ahead for sure,” said Harmon. “The city is still in a pretty rough financial spot, so as that’s going on be patient with each other. It does take time to get these things fixed and you have people here who are intent and focused on making it better. It just takes time. So, if the community has patience with its city staff, City Council and each other, then they can make it through that process and start to see some of the fruits of things that we’ve been planting along the way. There’s definitely positive things coming, just stay patient and kind.”