Atwater appoints interim city manager after Waterman resigns

Lori Waterman has resigned from her role as Atwater City Manager.

At the start of Atwater City Council’s regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night, it was clear that a significant change of leadership at City Hall was taking place.

The meeting agenda showed that during the closed session the council was discussing an appointment for the city manager position, and Deputy City Manager Greg Thompson was sitting in City Manager Lori Waterman’s place when the public meeting commenced.

As the meeting progressed, it was revealed that Lori Waterman had resigned from her role last week, effective that evening. Waterman’s contract was originally scheduled to end in December of this year. The situation was not addressed by council members until the end of the meeting, following public comment.

“It’s no secret that I wasn’t a fan, but this was not the way for her to go out,” said Mayor Mike Nelson, who had public tensions with Waterman in the past. “I will give Lori tremendous credit for the fact that she owned up to her mistake, and she fell on her sword for it, and didn’t try to blame anybody else for her poor decisions, and she felt it was in the city’s best interest that she resign. … I give her great credit for that.”

While the mayor, other council members, and members of the public made reference to worrisome “actions and behaviors” by Waterman, no clear explanation was given on why she was stepping down from her role as city manager.

However, the news did come amid recent social media posts and anonymous calls to the Times that alleged Waterman had been arrested for a DUI in January. The Times contacted the CHP Merced area office and the agency did have a report filed with the name Lori Waterman of Atwater who was arrested for driving under the influence, cited and released on Jan. 20. The time of the incident was listed as 2:40 a.m. on Atwater Jordan Road, west of Applegate Road.

An anonymous caller to The Times who knew details of the same case expressed concerns that Waterman had received preferential treatment; however, CHP Public Information Officer Eric Zuniga explained that being cited and released is common practice in the case of DUIs without a collision or injury where the driver has a valid license, and no prior DUIs.

Waterman became Atwater’s city manager in 2018 after acting as interim city manager following a series of complications with filling the city manager position starting in 2016. She had already worked for the city for 12 years at the time. During her tenure as city manager, she experienced a series of personal hardships, as well as litigious complications involving her role with the city.

“She came in at a contentious time, when things were just chaotic constantly,” Brian Raymond commented on Monday night. “She stuck it out, worked hard, and did a pretty good job with working with the council and trying to keep things calm, and keeping the peace so we could get things done.”

Other council members’ remarks regarding the departure of Waterman were equally positive, while some members of the community directed criticism toward the council.

“Her behavior is what has her now gone. What’s sad about all this is that people on this council knew about it, staff in this city knew about her behavior, and nobody — nobody — intervened,” said former Atwater Mayor Jim Price. “She was one of the people you should have been looking out for.”

“I appreciate everything she did,” responded Council member John Cale. “She did a great job. … She did everything she possibly could to make this city better. If there’s anybody that is at fault for her actions, she has admitted to me that it was her. None of us could have done anything to stop those actions.”

When the meeting concluded, the council resumed the closed session. After, it was announced that they had approved Greg Thompson as Interim City Manager with a 5-0 vote. Greg Thompson has also served in the role as Atwater’s Community Development Director.

AtwaterAtwater City CouncilMerced County
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