Claremont seeks to stabilize departments with new management

The recent history Claremont’s Human and Community Services Department has been one of stops, starts and restructuring—a history made even more complex by financial strains and revolving management.

As 2010 kicked off, Claremont’s community services department, after serious financial difficulty, went through a restructuring that included laying off employees and trimming its budget by about $500,000 in a two-year period.

By July of 2010, Pat Malloy, the interim director for the department, announced he would leave his position by the end of the year. With Mr. Malloy’s announcement came the departure of two additional community services superintendents, who left through early retirement.

Human Services Director Jeff Porter, who came on board in 2006 after Dick Guthrie retired, stayed only two years. In 2008, Mercy Santoro, who had worked for the city in mid-level management for nearly eight years, was named the city’s interim human services director.

At that time, many of the community services department’s key responsibilities were shifted over to other city departments, including oversight of Oak Park Cemetery, the Park Ranger Program, all city parks, building and facility maintenance and transportation to the human services department under Ms. Santoro. After 10 years with the city, she announced she would be leaving for a position with the city of Pasadena in July 2011.

With Ms. Santoro’s departure and an already struggling community services department, Claremont’s city manager at the time, Jeff Parker, proposed that the departments be combined with just one director and five managers. The estimated cost savings to the city’s general fund would be about $140,000 a year, Mr. Parker estimated.

By December 2011, council had approved the department merger, with Michele McNeill leading the new Claremont Human and Community Services Department at an annual salary of $142,711. At the same time, Mr. Parker made his move to Tustin as its new city manager, while then-assistant city manager Tony Ramos took over in Claremont.

Ms. McNeill’s stay with the city didn’t last long. She entered her resignation in February 2012, less than six months after Mr. Parker appointed her. So Claremont started 2012 with a new city manager and a freshly-created—and financially struggling—community and human services department with no manager. Then Kathleen Trepa stepped in.

Ms. Trepa, who had worked for the city of San Marcos for about 20 years, was named Claremont’s director of community and human services in September 2012, a position she continues to hold. But merging human and community services proved too daunting a task.

“We’ve split the departments back up again,” the city’s public information officer, Bevin Handel, said. “It was a challenge having a director trying to go between two departments. Plus, community services is at the [city] yard and human services is based out of the Hughes Center.”

Community services moved to the city yard, located at 1616 Monte Vista Ave., in early 2005, but has occupied only the downstairs portion of the building.

“The top story was never completely built-out,” Ms. Handel said. “As it stands, we don’t need the office space. We don’t know for sure what we’ll do with that space.”

Returning to separate human and community services departments will not generate any lower- or mid-level management positions, according to Ms. Handel, but the community services department is continuing its search for a secondary full-time arborist position to work alongside city arborist Paul Cranmer.

“We got hit really hard financially,” Ms. Handel explained. “Now we’re in a better position, so we’re able to fill these positions.”

With some of the financial problems resolved, longtime Claremont resident Anne Turner was appointed the city’s director of human services last week. Earning an annual salary of $127,896, Ms. Turner will oversee senior services and community recreation, including activities at the Hughes and Joslyn senior centers, as well as citywide events like the summer concert series and annual spring celebration.

With the permanent hiring of Ms. Turner, Ms. Trepa’s new title is director of community services, with trees, sanitation, roads and Oak Park Cemetery management all falling under her purview.

—Kathryn Dunn

editor@claremont-courier.com

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