Merced County Times Newspaper
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Atwater picks finalist for top city manager position

Chris Hoem
Chris Hoem

The search for a new city manager for the City of Atwater may be finally coming to a close.

The City Council is expected to vote at their upcoming meeting on the appointment of Chris Hoem to take over the role.

Hoem previously served as the community development director for the City of Ceres. Prior to that, he served as a city planner in Utah, as a director of development services in Idaho, and as a land use advisor and planner in Santa Clara County. Hoem has a Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in urban, rural, and environmental planning, and a Master of Public Administration degree from San Jose State University.

“I am honored to serve a community as resilient and well-respected as the City of Atwater,” said Hoem in a statement released by the city on Tuesday morning. “Atwater is in a unique position, with exciting opportunities, and I am eager to work with the staff, City Council, residents, and businesses to help the city thrive.”

In February, Hoem was terminated from the position of community development director in Ceres, following criticism from an employee and the departure of multiple city employees since he was hired in August 2021, according to The Ceres Courier.

Atwater’s previous city manager, Lori Waterman, resigned from the position in February, about 11 months before her contract was set to end. While Atwater’s Mayor Mike Nelson, fellow council members, and members of the public made reference to worrisome “actions and behaviors” by Waterman, no clear explanation was given on why she stepped down from her role as city manager. The Times later learned Waterman had been arrested for a DUI during a vehicle stop by the CHP a month prior. Waterman’s regular salary was around $200,000, according to Transparent California.

Deputy City Manager Greg Thomspon has been acting as Interim City Manager since Waterman’s departure, and for some in the community, was considered the obvious choice to officially take on the role.

“It’s disappointing,” said former mayor Jim Price regarding news of Hoem’s likely appointment. “Since Greg was put in the interim position he has hit the ground running, and has been doing a Herculean effort to do stuff for the city. … He’s just been doing an incredible job. He was absolutely the person to take care of the city.”

Mayor Mike Nelson, however, is enthused by the choice.

“Chris Hoem’s leadership and experience set him apart,” said Nelson in a statement. “We went through an exhaustive search with the help of a professional recruitment company and had some excellent candidates to choose from. Chris rose to the top and I look forward to working with him to make great things happen in Atwater.”

The Atwater City Council will consider and vote on the appointment at their scheduled meeting on Monday, June 24, with a tentative start date for Hoem on June 25.

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