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Local News

Armstrong Stepping Down as Santa Barbara City Administrator

City announces that his 13-year tenure will end in September

Santa Barbara's top administrator will step down at the end of September after 13 years, the city announced Friday. 

City Administrator Jim Armstrong sent a letter to Mayor Helene Schneider and the City Council announcing his plans to leave city government, said Nina Johnson, assistant to the city administrator.

He's the highest-paid city employee and oversees the city's 1,000 employees as well as the annual budget process. 

Armstrong was appointed as Santa Barbara's chief executive officer in September 2001, and it was his third city manager position, previously working in Fullerton and Hanford. 

"I've been in city government for 37 years, and city manager in three cities, first when I was 29, so I actually had planned to do this when I was 60 and I'm 61 now, but it was not a good time," he told Noozhawk Friday. 

"There were some things I wanted to get finished." 

Now, he feels the city has a solid budget, a strong management team in place, and good labor contracts with the major unions. 

"It's not because I'm unhappy, I love my job and love who I work with. I'm really proud of what we've been able to get done in the organization," he said. 

He didn't use the term "retirement," but won't be pursuing another city manager job. He may do some part-time work, consulting, teaching or commit more time to his volunteer efforts, he said. 

"I'd like to do something because I'm a busy guy and I've been busy all my life."

The city announced it would start a recruitment process in July, and it's possible that assistant city administrator Paul Casey would take over on an interim basis. 

The City Council will be appointing a successor, just months after hiring Ariel Calonne to replace City Attorney Steve Wiley who retired in December.

In Armstrong's time with the city, he dealt with budgeting during the recession, the Tea Fire and Jesusita Fire emergencies, and the dissolution of the Redevelopment Agency in 2012, Johnson said. 

He also supervised major projects including the new Santa Barbara Airport terminal building, the Granada Garage, restoration of the City Fire headquarters building on Carrillo Street, and the Carrillo Recreation Center. 

Armstrong plans to stay in town with his wife, Linda. 

In a statement from the city, Johnson said Armstrong is a volunteer with the Santa Barbara Rotary Club, Channel Islands YMCA, and the Santa Barbara County United Way. He also uses his pilot's license to fly voluntarily for Liga International, which operates charity medical clinics in Mexico. 

Schneider called his work "exceptional" over the past 13 years in a statement. 

"During his tenure and through his leadership working with the City Council, the City of Santa Barbara became a stronger, more fiscally sound organization," she said. "He is widely respected both locally and statewide, for his effective management style, direct communication and vision.

"Personally, I have appreciated his approach in presenting key information and options towards complex issues for the City Council’s policy consideration. I wish him well as he enters this new chapter in his personal life.” 

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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