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Marysville city manager brings ‘new passions'
The introductions have only begun, and Marysville's new city manager, Walter Munchheimer, is still learning his way around town.
But the 35-year veteran of public administration said he is ready to begin helping carve out its future.
Regular walks through the downtown corridor will become part of his routine, he said.
"I'm going to be part of Marysville," he said, "and a central business district is the beating heart of the community."
Munchheimer, 64, began his career, after schooling at UC Davis, as a Lake County administrator. He most recently served as director of financial management for Palm Beach County, Fla., where the number of public employees rivals the size of Marysville's population.
He also has served as deputy county manager of Fulton County, Ga., which includes much of Atlanta.
The California native moved to Eureka with his wife four years ago so that she could resume her own career in public health administration.
"I really thought I was retired," he said.
But his wife's death earlier this year changed everything. "It was necessary to become active again," he said of a decision to head back to work.
Munchheimer was recently at or near the top of candidate lists for leadership jobs in Florida, Ohio, Oregon and Delaware.
Communities receiving his application ranged from small cities and medium-sized counties to those with well over a million people.
After a career in which he has tackled everything from urban blight to big-money corruption, modest Marysville, he said, now seems a comfortable fit.
"It puts me in a position to make a real contribution," he said.
And the machinations of small-town life, he said, are not entirely foreign.
Rio Dell, where he grew up in Humboldt County as the youngest child of the town doctor and first mayor, "would make Marysville look like a big city," he said.
Marysville operates under a $118,000 deficit with no significant, tangible sources of income on its horizon.
But Munchheimer said he has seen enough changes in the fortunes of American cities not to call in the hearses just yet.
"I'm a pretty good imagination guy," he said. "It's up to the leaders of a place to raise the bar on that."
The fact that the city is hemmed in by levees "is an obvious constraint," he said, to the type of growth nearby communities have been able to enjoy in recent decades.
Careful and deliberate long-term planning is key.
"Big box stores aren't the only route to prosperity," he said. "In a small community, economics are almost always driven by small business. The strategy can't be to just go for the one big thing.
"Even if the majority of tax revenue isn't generated there, it's worth our energy — whatever it takes — to bring consumer traffic to the central (D Street) district," he said.
Financial resources that Marysville needs, he said, must be attracted to the city from beyond its boundaries.
"Ultimately, it requires private investment," he said.
City Hall and the community "will have a role to play in creating a climate in which that can happen," Munchheimer said.
He is impressed, he said, with investments and improvements already made to D Street and by its potential.
Tuesday, Munchheimer was sworn in. He will be busy in the coming days, settling into temporary housing off Ellis Lake Drive.
His role as a newcomer, he said, will hopefully prove to be an advantage in taking on the city's challenges.
"It's a valuable thing to have a set of new eyes," he said, "and bring in new insights and new passions."
For now, he said, "it's fact-finding time."
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.