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Sandoval leaving Robert Moreno | Sat, Mar 29 2014 12:00 PM

Jim Sandoval announced his retirement from the city of Chula Vista once before, only to come back a few months later. This time around, the city manager of the county’s second largest city announced on Wednesday that he was stepping down to retire … again.

But Sandoval insists that his retirement is for good.

“I really don’t want to work full-time anymore, so this time it is permanent,” he said.

“This was totally my choice, and I think it is the right time.”

Sandoval, 58, is set to retire July 1, the start of the city’s new fiscal year.

Sandoval came out of retirement as Chula Vista’s planning and building director in 2008 to reshape the city’s financial situation after Chula Vista suffered the worst economic collapse in the city’s 100-year history.

“He actually did a really remarkable job given the circumstances or the hand that was dealt with the deficits that we’ve had in the past,” said Councilwoman Mary Salas.

“I think his retirement comes at a time where he achieved what he wanted to accomplish. He wanted to see the city back in the black with a balanced budget.”

But getting the city back on track came at the expense of cutting hundreds of city employees, the consolidation of several departments and, at one time, employees paying a larger share of pension costs.

The city’s financial stability which came under Sandoval’s watch led the city to settle contracts with three of its non-safety bargaining units last year, which gave wage increases to union members for the first time in six years.

Sandoval’s budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year included a general fund of $127.7 million with $2.3 million taken out of the contingency fund to balance the budget, and an all funds budget combined with the general fund of $261 million.

Getting the city back on its economic feet is what Sandoval said was one of his greatest accomplishments as city manager, along with the progress that has been made with the much heralded Chula Vista University and the glamorized Chula Vista bayfront.

The budget also listed funding for several development projects, the implementation of the fire department’s advanced life support program and additional police staffing.

Sandoval said the city of Chula Vista couldn’t thrive like it is today if it weren’t for city staff and city employees working together.

“I really believe that nobody accomplishes something on their own,” he said.

Despite the city’s financial turnaround, the Chula Vista firefighters union said he lacked in other areas.

“I wished he could have been more fair in his dealing with public employees and would have been more supportive of public safety, “ said  John Hess, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2180.

The fire union and the city for months have been at odds over an agreement on a new contract.
Sandoval said he’s made public safety a priority.

“I think since I’ve been city manager, I’ve always put the public first,” he said.

“Since I’ve been manager our city is safer, our firefighters are safer and are better compensated.”

His only regret, Sandoval said, is that some projects and programs didn’t move as quickly as he would have liked them to.

Sandoval said there isn’t a plan in place yet to name his successor, but he did mention that Assistant City Manager Gary Halbert would be a good candidate.

Sandoval said his retirement will include spending more time with his family and traveling.

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