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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 9:38 pm | Fair 55º


Solvang Finds New City Manager in Desert City of Indian Wells

David Gassaway will start new job in early April after serving as community development director, other positions for different cities

Solvang’s new city manager, David Gassaway, addresses the City Council. Click to view larger
Solvang’s new city manager, David Gassaway, addresses the City Council Monday night. He will assume his new duties on April 8 after serving as community development director for the city of Indian Wells. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The man hired as Solvang’s next city manager pledged Monday night to bring transparency and high ethical standards while respecting its Danish heritage and history when he takes the helm in April.

The City Council voted 4-0 to approve the 5-year contract with David Gassaway, community development director for the desert city of Indian Wells.

His hiring culminated a search that began last summer to fill the city's top job.

Mayor Ryan Toussaint was absent from Monday’s meeting, but Mayor Pro-Tem Robert Clarke said he was “thoroughly impressed” by Gassaway during the interview process.

“I, for one, as mayor pro-tem, I could not be happier that he is with us,” Clarke said.

Councilwoman Karen Waite said Gassaway arrived with outstanding references from well-respected individuals in the city-administration industry. 

“We look forward to the things he’ll do with us and for us,” Councilman Chris Djernaes added. “I think the community will be well-served not just by his invaluable skill set and expertise and experience, but also by his interpersonal skills.”

When he officially starts April 8, Gassaway will replace Brad Vidro who retired in December after 13 years working for the city.

During remarks to the council Monday, Gassaway, 36,  said he looks forward to becoming a part of the Solvang community.

“I’m excited about our future together,” he said. “Like many cities in California, Solvang is not without its challenges, but unlike many cities in California, Solvang is blessed with some advantages. 

“It has an engaged and passionate citizenry…. It is a desired place to live and a famous place to visit, which I think ensures it has a strong economic foundation,” he added. “And it has a committed and competent city staff that pride themselves in delivering services that residents will be proud."

These factors led him to pursue the position in Solvang, he said, vowing to dedicate his energy to produce results for the community.

He also committed to three aspects of his leadership, including high ethnical standards, transparent city operations and respect for Solvang’s cultural heritage and history. 

“Far and wide, Solvang is identified positively for its wonderful Danish heritage,” Gassaway said. “As the city seeks, and as we work together with this City Council to identify a vision for the 21st century, I commit to understanding and paying homage to Solvang’s cultural heritage and history.”

Under the terms of the contract, Gassaway will be paid an annual salary of $175,000, plus receive health benefits offered other top Solvang employees.

“As council is aware, the city manager’s job is a highly complex one,” Interim City Manager Rick Haydon said. “The city manager serves as the chief executive officer, and is responsible for the coordination and oversight of the activities and operations of the entire city of Sovang, subject to the policy direction of the council.”

Gassaway will be reimbursed for moving expenses and receive housing, cellphone and car allowances.

Additionally, if he purchases a home in Solvang, the city would offer a loan of $150,000 with an annual interest rate of 4 percent among the terms. 

Before his current job,  Gassaway was the assistant to the Indian Wells city manager from May 2014 through June 2016. 

He also worked for five years in various slots for the city of Rancho Cordova until he was promoted to the assistant for the city manager. 

Gassaway graduated from San Diego State University and earned a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco. 

He and his wife, Janet, have two children, Ashton and Hudson.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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