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Merced City Attorney Norton moving on to job in Riverside


Phaedra Norton, who has been serving Merced as the City Attorney since October of 2018, has been named City Attorney in Riverside, overseeing a staff of municipal attorneys who provide legal services to the 12th largest city in California.

She starts her new job on July 20. 

Phaedra Norton


Norton has more than two decades of experience in municipal law. In Riverside, she will oversee a staff of 39 people, including 18 attorneys, responsible for everything from routine legal matters to handling all litigation and working with outside legal counsel hired by the city. 

“As a growing city with its own utility, Riverside is often confronted with extremely complex issues,” Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said. “We need wise and experienced legal counsel to navigate these issues and I am confident Phaedra Norton is the right person to ensure that we do.” 

Like Riverside, Merced operates under a charter, which serves as the guiding document for providing city services. Norton started her position in Merced in 2018 during the era of Mayor Mike Murphy after working about seven months as the Deputy City Attorney in Stockton. She had previously worked for a decade as the City Attorney in Turlock. 

In Merced, Norton worked on homeless issues, including the Homeless Court program, and local ballot measures including: (2018) Measure Y — cannabis revenue; (2020) Measure K — 4-year mayoral term; (2020) Measure L — City Council stipend setting commission; (2020) Measure M — direct reporting from finance officer to City Council.

She also served during a tumultuous period that included the firing of City Manager Steve Carrigan, the local reaction to the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and the Black Lives Matter movement, the censorship of Councilman Fernando Echevarria, and of course, all the legal matters that the city faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and a declaration of a State of Emergency.

Her starting annual salary in Merced was $204,600. In Riverside, her salary will be $286,000.

Norton’s other work experiences include service with the Central San Joaquin Valley Risk Management Authority; City of Newman; Stanislaus Regional Water Authority; West Turlock Sub-basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency; and the City of Modesto. 

“Phaedra Norton has years of experience in charter cities like Riverside, so she is very aware of the opportunities and challenges facing local government in California,” Mayor Pro Tem Jim Perry said. “Her experience in the utility field will also be exceptionally valuable to assisting Riverside Public Utilities.” 

Norton received her A.S. degree from San Francisco City College and her Juris Doctor from Humphreys College. 

“I am excited to join the City of Riverside team,” Norton said. “I look forward to bringing the knowledge and experience I developed in the San Joaquin Valley to Southern California and contributing to the Riverside community.” 




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